Goddamn if this album isn’t beautiful. From the moment it begins, with three twinkling strikes of a xylophone, Owel’s dear me is a gorgeous, sweeping ode to the power of beauty in music. Each song across the album’s 66-minute runtime brims with tenderness and passion; when, for instance, vocalist Jay Sakong sings the titular syllables of ‘Pale Soft Light’ during that song’s bridge, the words are delivered with such warmth and delicacy that it borders on onomatopoeic.
But there is, of course, more to beauty than elegance. On dear me, Owel diversifies accordingly. Songs like ‘I Am Not Yours’ and ‘Annabel’ – whose lyrics are dark – are both powerful and bold while ‘Not Today’ is rhythmic and pulsing. And yet, throughout every song on dear me, the lingering sense of beauty and wonder remains.
As with their self-titled debut, Owel’s greatest successes here come when they explore the natural dramatic tension between subdued, dreamy gentility and boisterous, soaring catharsis. It’s easy to see the influence of bands like Sigur Rós, Tides of Man or even Clarity-era Jimmy Eat World, but to lean too heavily on these comparisons is unfair – what dear me achieves at its peak is wonderfully unique.
As the album winds down, the listener’s journey concludes with the same three xylophonic notes that began it. I’ve written before about the power of cyclical composition and how it begs for immortality, but there’s another side to cyclical works: they’re self-contained, worlds unto themselves. And dear me truly does a masterful job of carrying its listeners away into its dreamy, beautiful world. It’s a world I want to live in, often. I imagine I will.
Banner photo by Dimitry Mak.