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Owl & Penny: Fever Dreams

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Album: Fever Dreams

Basics: Ryan Osterman -- the man behind both Sownbones and Owl & Penny -- is one of the more talented players on the River Jones Music roster.

Osterman's folk-tinged indie rock smacks of one of his admitted favorite artists, Ryan Adams.There's also a hint of Bright Eyes-era Conor Oberst and just a splash of Josh Rouse. These are all pretty mellow dudes, making Osterman's Fever Dreams album -- an EP expanded from its original five tracks to a hefty nine -- a rather toned down, sincere effort.

Best Song: There are actually about three I could choose for this. I'll go with "I Am the Floorboards." It's jangly and stripped-down, yet it's the chorus that cements the entire effort. Osterman has a lot to do, and he wants you to come along when he pines, "C'mon, c'mon, c'mon / We've got a lot to do." Sounds simple? Well, it is. It's what Osterman does with that simplicity -- how he fleshes it out -- that makes the song such a solid effort. Bonus points for nailing a falsetto, too -- that stuff is difficult to do, especially with Osterman's subdued, indie/folk singing style.

Worst Song: "Steel Bird Steal" already has a corny title and it's the only song to feature profanity. Both work against the song. The song is enjoyable, but of the mellower songs on the album, this is the weakest one. The lyrics in the chorus sound too jumbled and rushed, giving the song a thrown-together feel that hurts the effort. The violin, I might add, is a very nice touch.

Suggestions: Osterman's expertise is such that I can't really offer anything here. If I did, it would be to continue on in the vein of songs like "I Am the Floorboards" and "Rare and Caller." Both have very catchy choruses and sound stripped down in a very complex way, if that makes sense -- like Osterman put a lot of effort to have such a bare, raw sound. The more mellower songs serve their purpose, but Osterman's skills shine brightest on the more uptempo tracks. Also, I don't know what constitutes "music you'll want to kill yourself to," but I'd stay away from all of that.

Grade: B+

If you're a musician from the Phoenix metro area and would like to have your music reviewed in You Asked For It (our first-come, first-served and often harsh record review column) please send it in an envelope marked "YAFI" to:

Michael Lopez
You Asked For It
c/o Phoenix New Times
1201 E. Jefferson Street Phoenix , AZ 85034

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