We’re a few weeks away (March 10) from the debut release (cassette/digital) by Yowler which is, essentially, Maryn Jones’ solo project (Jones fronts All Dogs and sings and plays multiple instruments in Saintseneca). Two songs (“7 Towers” and “The Offer”) are available to stream right now and seeing as how I’ve gone the opposite route of Maryn by taking THIS solo project and adding members, I decided to introduce some of the new Columbus Calling contributors by asking them to provide their thoughts on these songs.
Yowler make their debut with The Offer, two quiet tracks that while sonically might not be what you’d expect from their name, they more than live up to the title in emotional intensity. It’s worth mentioning that I went into this review blind, with no knowledge of All Dogs, one of Maryn Jones’ other bands, besides what a quick Google search revealed to me. “7 Towers” reminded me of Warpaint’s quieter moments and the brooding guitar work immediately drew me in. While I appreciated the build and restraint, I couldn’t help but daydream of what some light rhythmic percussion might bring to the proceedings. Which isn’t to say the song doesn’t work well here, as it may be my favorite of the two.
The title track “The Offer” is the sort of song that is so intimate it’s almost uncomfortable for the listener, with it’s quietly plucked strings and confessional lyrics. This song would not be out of place alongside Chelsea Wolfe or Manchester Orchestra’s softer passages. The almost whispered vocals bring an intimacy that reminded me of Nirvana’s “Something in the Way.” Brooding and powerful, I look forward to hearing more of what Yowler has to offer.
“7 Towers” – The vocal imperfections and stark instrumentation bring an interesting goth-meets-grunge feel, giving me visions of Elvira recording on a 4-track in her velveteen bedroom, something I haven’t daydreamed about since…well, never mind. The subtle layered vocals and instrumentation in the chorus/bridge bring a restrained release to the tension building during the verses. Even though I kept expecting a bombastic, radio rock outro, or some kind of drum machine/keyboard 80’s dance rip-off chorus that is so popular in music right now, I really appreciate the fact that I never got it. On first listen I wanted more rhythm, but the song left me wanting to listen again. On second listen the sparseness made me think David Lynch/Lost Highway and the atmospheric tension of tracks from Nick Cave’s Push the Sky Away. This is a solid track that teases the band’s sound just enough to make me want to hear more.“The Offer” – This is perfect music for a quiet winter day, sitting by a fire, watching snow fall. Musically and melodically this song walks the path of dark folk classics like Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon” or Elliot Smith’s “Needle in the Hay”, and Icelandic folk bands like Soley or Hymnalaya, and would be HUGE in Iceland, especially if you add a cello or other middle-register stringed instruments to the mix. The layered instrumentation and vocals, set back from the mix like someone calling to you from another room in a house adds subtle depth and slight mystery to the sound, making you want to walk around this house and see what exactly is going on in there. I love the atmospheric elements, like the creak of a chair, the rustle of clothing, and the breath of the singer, all which add to the experience when listening on a good set of headphones. A solid exercise in atmospheric, dark folk that makes me interested to hear more from this band.
From the post-punk grunge (Veruca Salt-esque, anyone) of All Dogs to the folk-indie twangings (of Monsters and Men, anyone) of Saintseneca, C-Bus’ local lyricist Maryn Jones has forayed out on her own and recorded a solo album with her band Yowler, titled “The Offer” and dropping next month. From listening to some early tracks, I am predicting the rest of the album will follow in the same lyrical, atmospheric, minimalist vein: The darkly pure vocal stylings of “Seven Towers” makes us feel as if we are sharing dark, breathy secrets from Maryn’s heart; the vocals are lifted above buoyant, gently scratchy guitar licks — it’s a poem put to music, slow and ethereal. The second track,”The Offer” is even more starkly minimalistic, stripped down and asking us to think about topics like spirits, shapes, dark shadows, and promises to stay. Toward the end, the quiet strumming and slow vocals became almost a wee bit laggy….verging closely on Lana Del Ray territory if Lana had had too much to drink, the vocal stylings bordering on a slurred whisper.It’s clear the vocals are the focal point of this new project, and people love to feel like they are enveloped into a world of secrets and discovering something new about the human condition. If Yowler can do this while not becoming too slow and dirgey — in other words, keeping the interest of the listener without each song drifting into the other in a dreamy haze — this album, with its dark, soft strumming, could be a gentle way to reflect and relax on a snowy day.
Yowler sounds like a young punk trying to channel their angst with an acoustic guitar. It’s very raw, but I wouldn’t call it gusty. They hold a quirky sense of adolescent charm, but it doesn’t pack much of a punch. Like a less fleshed out, stripped version of their label mates Frankie Cosmos. They have a lot of potential to make a spot for themselves in the modern anti-folk scene, but from these two songs it seems like they’ve still got a little ways to go.
It almost feels like a betrayal to listen to these songs, like reading words out of a diary that were never meant to be shared. Maryn’s words seem so fragile, so broken, as if they’d crumble if you picked them up. “Put the hurt on me, gave you everything,” Maryn sings atop an echoey guitar that sounds so much like something Veruca Salt would have done on an early B-side that I’ve spent the last few days going through old CD singles trying to find the song it reminds me of (no luck, so far). Like a pot of boiling water, the song’s intensity builds throughout and the lone guitar is joined by bass and, maybe, some piano before stopping just short of bubbling over.
It doesn’t get any more intimate than “The Offer” where the recording picks up all the sounds of Maryn’s hands presumably picking up the guitar and then sliding her fingers up and down the strings. Again, Maryn’s delicate – yet confident – vocals are easy to get pulled into and the layering of vocals in the last minute or so add depth to an otherwise sparse and acoustic number.