The irony — in that Alanis Morissette “Ironic” kind of way — that I am composing a review of an album titled “Night Owl” as the clock clicks past midnight … 1AM … then 2AM isn’t lost on me. I am a self-proclaimed night owl. A creature who pulls her headphones on after 10PM to surf the Internet, read articles on upcoming movies and dance around her apartment on a steady stream of songs.
My latest musical focus comes from Olivia Jean, and her recently released album, “Night Owl,” from Third Man Records. The album, consisting of 14 tracks, pulls from several different musical elements, but has a consistent sound and up-tempo tone.
While listening, I can hear the overarching retro rock ‘n’ roll of the 50’s and 60’s. There are threads in her songs reminding me of The B-52’s, along with the bop and leg twisty dancing seen in movies like “Beach Blanket Bingo” and “Gidget” (especially in the opening track, “Garage Bat”).*
*If those references confound you, I understand. It took me several years to realize the movies my parents had me watch ‘for fun’ as a kid were neither relevant nor new releases.*
Jean’s single and title track, “Night Owl” is a standout; a song with all the markings of a single that can be played on repeat. The album is good at mixing rock and pop styles, while adding a touch of moodiness. Plus, I was surprised by the familiarity of “Jaan Pehechaan Ho.” Which led me down the Internet information vortex of realizing I probably vaguely remembered it from the opening credits of the movie “Ghost World.”*
*And also led me to discover the song is originally from the 1965 Bollywood film “Gumnaam.”*
Instruments are a major highlight on the album, which isn’t surprising given that Jean plays a variety herself. So I got to enjoy several instrumental highlights in songs (like in “Brushfire”). Admittedly, this instrument appreciation might stem from my love of live shows and seeing musicians play IRL. And some of it might be because most of my friends have a musical background; and during college, they would practice everything from piano to guitar to harp in our house.
*My musical abilities are limited to a few years of piano and the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle that comes from handbells.*
Jean’s “Night Owl” is my favorite kind of album. One where I can feel the consistency from song to song. Since I work with music on the background, I gravitate towards playlists and albums that have a steady through thread of sound. While I like variety in song style, having something with a consistent tone (not too much altering tracks with fast then slow, then fast, then slow again songs) remains a personal preference.
So, if you looking for a little rock that lets you roll, than Jean’s latest album is just the sound you’ve been looking for.