Review: Olivia Jean – Night Owl

Every once and a while you’ll stumble across a musician by chance to later realize the universe alignment occurred for a very specific reason. At Treefort Music Fest this astral pairing came in the form of wandering into Olivia Jean’s set. From that moment on, I was hooked.

While she embodies an image that is as retro as her sound, don’t be fooled by the pleasantries, Olivia Jean knows how to command her guitar, her audience, and her style. Her latest record Night Owl drives this home.

The fourteen-track self-produced follow up to her debut Bathtub Love Killings (2014) slides in at just under 38 minutes. The short, sharp pops that make up each song collect to mingle amongst surf-pop undertones interlaced with a tenacious garage punk sound that lay the foundation of a gothic aura sound that is Olivia Jean’s Night Owl.

As the record progresses it opens itself to take shape that both defies the pretty pop cuteness of today’s Swifts as well as expectations. Somewhere in space and time essence of The Runaways was lingering in a void only to be captured in the riffs of Night Owl. Not in the sense of anchoring to teenage 70s angst, but in the subtle power that pushes back against the agenda.

With a couple of re-imagined tracks, Night Owl shines with both the small-bit track-length and the layers of work(wo)manship in Jean’s own creation. It’s safe to say each follows a general formula of build up to last few seconds shredding, yet this is one record that isn’t growing old any time soon. The only down side, it’s dropping at the tail end of summer. This would have been the perfect soundtrack to your summer misdeeds and adventures.

Let’s put this out there now Olivia Jean isn’t living in the shadow of Jack White. If you want to know about that, check out more on Olivia Jean or read a lazy write up on her music. That’s the easy out. The more complex approach is to set into a record having pretty high expectations considering the unforgettable live experience she brought to Treefort. I can say with confidence Night Owl not only exceeds the expectations it bolsters the already high appreciation of Olivia Jean.

Night Owl out now on Third Man Records.

Greg is a co-founder and regular contributor of Nanobot Rock

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