Mystic is the perfect name for the debut album from Owen Davies. I captures the calm, inward-looking fuzzy folk he plays while also tying into his album’s spiritual theme.
After Small Ideas, it’s easy to see that Davies is expanding his aims a bit more for the full-length. He never stays in one “mode” for too long, instead shaking things up with unexpected melody changes and playing with electronics. Few musicians can do “electro-folk” well but Davies is an exception.
The religious theme of the record is hard to miss with a pair of opening songs called “Jerusalem” and “Jordan.” The former is one of the pillars of the record, though it’s not as religious as its title hints. The shimmering guitars and gentle percussion make it fun to listen to, but the chorus is where it shakes up the pop cliche: “Babe, I got you babe, ’til the mountains crumble/Babe, who’s got me babe, when those mountains fall?”
The little instances of pointed commentary keep listeners from drifting into a false sense of security. The bright guitar and solid drums of “Washed Out” could be a meditation on the passage of time, but as it moves on he pulls out a stunner of a line: “Your sister’s sick with cancer, still you’re smoking cigarettes.” And then there’s “I Want Everything,” an otherwise sombre piano-based number, which opens with an unexpected allusion: “You’re no sweet child of mine.”
This is not to mention the songs with more conventional lyrics are any less interesting. “Jordan” and “Wild Child” are both slower-paced songs, with the latter steeping much more into darkness, and both employ strings without seeming gimmicky. The album’s title track starts with a mainly synth-oriented beat to really create the atmosphere of a bleary-eyed late night.
Whether or not Davies is trying to make some kind of statement, Mystic is a musical meditation to get behind.
Top Tracks: “Jerusalem”; “Mystic”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)