by Phil Scarisbrick
Despite being the daughter of a Hollywood movie star, Eve Owen only really came into our consciousness because of her work on The National’s last long-player, I Am Easy To Find. And it’s a collaboration has, in part, continued on her first album. Not only has it been produced by Aaron Dessner, but also released through his 37d03d label that he owns with twin brother Bryce and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. Such names can cast quite a shadow on a young artist about to release her first album, but Owen can have no such worries, as Don’t Let The Ink Dry is one of the most accomplished debuts we’ve heard in a long time.
One theme that runs through the whole record is colour, both lyrically and sonically. The vibrant, eclectic soundtrack feels like a journey through a tumultuous blend of emotional unloading. Bluebird fizzes along with a frantically picked acoustic and rolling snare that stick just to the right side of chaos, as Owen offers visual descriptions of her apprehensions – ‘A bluebird swept down to me, it used scars for hooks’. The piano based ballad, She Says, has Edith Piaf levels of open wound delivery, as Owen comes to grips with being let down by someone whom she has invested her ‘hope and faith’ in. It is a startlingly mature piece of songwriting for someone barely out of their teens, and delivered with equal gusto.
Blue Moon is backed by distorted guitar stabs and barely audible strings that anchor a lament about being on the wrong side of an unbalanced relationship, as Owen exclaims ‘Oh, I’ll never let you break/I’ll clean up your mistakes, Blue Moon’. The stripped back soundtrack only adds to the exacerbation of the lyric. ‘Although my words are silver/They catch onto your syllables,’ and ‘Although my red boots were made for walking/I look back to times with you,’ add yet more colour on So Still For You, as this melody-rich love song offers a sweetness to counteract the melancholy present elsewhere on the record. For Redemption is a real highlight, as it skips over loosely played drums and picked acoustic. Owen’s vocal flits between a sultry croon and urgent falsetto that creates an interesting, and achingly beautiful sonic palette.
Though musically there are elements that recall Dessner’s day job – such as the rhythmic electronica of Lover Not Today, which could slot straight onto either of his band’s previous two records – at no point do you feel like the weight of association gets on top of Owen’s work. In fact, there are only two elements that are important to this collaboration. Firstly, it opens her music up to a wider audience, and secondly, it has created a debut record that is astonishingly good. This twelve song set needs to be heard far and wide as it is, quite simply, brilliant. In nearly three years of reviewing records, I have written about a lot. In terms of debut albums though, I don’t think I have covered any better.
Secret Meeting score: 92
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