A striking duality reveals itself when listening to Raiders, the second EP from Melbourne fantasy-pop singer and songwriter Owl Eyes. The work of eerily talented 20-year-old Brooke Addamo, the EP’s songs are on the surface lush and beautiful, evoking images that could only exist in the imagination of such a fertile young mind.
Yet, underneath these surreal daydreams, something very real is happening: Addamo’s tales are underpinned by the innermost thoughts of a young woman trying to figure it all out. The EP’s title track and brimming first single speaks the familiar language of anyone struggling with internal and external pressures. Elsewhere, ‘Wait’ is a portrait of a girl on the sidelines, searching for a moment in which to jump into her life, while ‘Pieces’ and ‘Closer’ desperately seek out human connection.
Building on the foundations laid by last year’s debut EP Faces, Owl Eyes’ work in 2011 has seen her star rise at a frighteningly rapid pace. Touring with indie heroes Darwin Deez and Lissie, keeping a notably high profile with youth broadcaster triple j, as well as maintaining a feverish touring schedule of her own, what started out as a cult following is quickly turning into something much, much bigger for the fledgling songstress.
It’s not hard to see why when listening to the otherworldly sounds of Raiders. With the intention to create a “mini album” following the more eclectic palette evident on her debut offering, Addamo once again took up with Faces collaborator Jan Skubiszewski to work on new material as well as rework some older songs. ‘Wait’, for instance, was originally performed with an acoustic guitar and a tambourine, but its appearance on Raiders sees it take on an entirely different form: it’s a keys-laden sky walk weighed down by the cello-playing of Jessica Venables (Jessica Says),before the onset of drums opens it out into a bass-riffing, early-morning club jam.
“When I sat down in the studio, I wanted everything to be a little bit more atmospheric and not so band-driven,” Addamo says of the instrumentation. “A little bit synthy – nothing electro, just with something ambient underneath it all, but still able to be played live.”
Raiders is indeed in conversation with the atmospheric British trip-hop of the ‘90s, though as that suggests, it has plenty to say in response. Owl Eyes is never content to lean on the shoulders of those who’ve come before her, continually layering and expanding her sonic vocabulary to create playful and electrifying pop for 2011. In fact, as Addamo tells it, it wasn’t the English beat masters themselves but their greater muse that worked its way into the recordings.
“The feel that I got in the studio when I was writing the songs, all these different things related to space when I thought about them,” Addamo says. “The studio technician, who’s a friend, had this app on his phone that had daily space updates and every day we’d look at all these photos from space. So that was going on, and I was beginning to think about the space between the music and the space in the music, and the space between writing the last EP and how I’ve grown since then. It’s not just about the galaxy; space ties everything together on this.”
Something tells us we’re only just beginning to uncover the magical mystery of Owl Eyes, but Raiders is as bright and intriguing a clue as they come.
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