It’s hard to review this single, not because the basics aren’t pretty clear (it’s lovely, I like it a lot, go and buy it please) but because I am finding it very hard to figure out how to express exactly what I feel about this record. Actually, scratch that, I am finding it very hard to express exactly what I feel about eagleowl as a band, truth be told.
When I played Laughter, the b-side to this single, on the podcast a couple of weeks ago I remember describing eagleowl as having a very similar quality to Withered Hand, in that they just seem to have total integrity – they come across as being the only band they could actually be; as if they would actually be incapable of sitting down and styling themselves after a certain fashion.
It’s very much as if there is precisely no layer of artifice between them and their audience at all – no fourth wall, as the theatre community might put it. What that does, of course, is demand that you return the favour. The emotions are so naked that to engage with the music you tend to have to drop your own guard as well, which makes music like theirs hit home so very much harder than almost any other band I could mention.
The other thing about eagleowl which I love is that to a degree they force you to accept them on their terms, not your own. It reminds me of reading a book in that sense – you actually have to sit down and clear your mind or you are unlikely to take anything much from the experience. As such, I find that listening to eagleowl always puts me in the right frame of mind to listen to eagleowl, and so I have never listened to anything they’ve done with less than complete attention. This gives the carefully assembled details of their work the chance to reveal themselves one at a time in the unhurried way in which this band operate.
Which brings me onto this particular release. This may not really be a Christmas song per se, but it does embody that envelopment and sanctuary which your own home takes on as the conditions outside become more and more unpleasant. Even the cover image of the candle in the dark reinforces this feeling. This song basically expresses everything I love about Winter and Christmas in general: the restlfulness of being home (be it chez Toad, or visiting the folks or in Manchester with my Granddad – they all have their different but equally comforting homely qualities), the deep satisfaction of being curled up on a couch in a warm living room when it’s freezing cold and blustery outside, and that indescribable, incomparable feeling of rightness you get when snuggling up to a loved one late in the evening after a good meal and enjoying the fact that you really have nothing at all to do in the hours between now and bedtime.
I don’t really know how more meaningfully I can evaluate this music. I could describe the change in how Malcolm is using his violin these days, or the interplay between male and female vocals or any of that stuff, but it’s never what I end up caring about when I listen to eagleowl. They just sound right; this just sounds right. And that’s all that really needs saying about any of it.
Buy the single from Kilter Records