Even for the most casual listener, being a fan of Owls has been a long and arduous journey. Two is the band’s second album in 13 years under their current moniker. Prior to the formation of Owls, band members Tim Kinsella, Mike Kinsella, Victor Villarreal and Sam Zurick created the emo-punk band, Cap’n Jazz. Cap’n Jazz disbanded in the late 1990s, and the band members created such acts as The Promise Ring, Make Believe and Joan Of Arc. After a Cap’n Jazz reunion tour in 2010, the band began to discuss recording another Owls album. Slowly but surely, here we are four years later with Two.
The album begins with Four Works Of Art… (every track title has ellipsis) and features a little over a minute’s worth of expert guitar work. The track is eerie and slow moving, with the vocals working as an almost call and response. A noticeable change in Owls’ music comes from the lyrics and Tim Kinsella’s ability to sing them. Kinsella sounds more confident than ever before. He hits high notes with better clarity. When reflecting on the lyrics and even just the track titles themselves, it seems Kinsella may be realizing that he has grown up. He shows a sense of maturity in songs like I’m Surprised…: “I’m surprised and I admit it/I’m surprised it’s true/to have grown up/to become/It’s a man that worries his friends.” It shows a more burdened version of Owls that was not really present in their first album, Owls (Jade Tree, 2001).
There is also a lot more jamming going on in this record. But coming from this band, that’s very good news. They are experts at their craft, and this album allows them to flex those sonic muscles a bit. Mike Kinsella is an incredible drummer, and he shows it with his intuitiveness and willingness to sometimes let the drums take a backseat. Two presents a lot of extended, complex playing that only works because these dudes know what they’re doing and do it well as a team. Tracks like It Collects Itself… and This Must Be How… are prime examples of that chemistry.
However, the issue on here is that not enough tracks combine both of these two, cool, newfound elements—Kinsella’s vocal and lyrical growth and the expert jamming that surfaces throughout. Alone they are great, but when they fuse together, it’s sonic magic, as on A Drop Of Blood… It’s a must-listen, but it’s also the last song. There just aren’t enough of those drops dropping on Two.