Watching Thus Owls perform recently at a festival, I was struck by how quickly their music oscillated between downright lovely and downright scary. One minute, the lead vocalist is whisper-singing some pretty melodic line in an endearing Swedish accent, and the next minute an intimidating surge of guitar makes your eyebrows climb halfway up your forehead.
Most of their music seems to exist at the intersection of those two textures. Their own website describes how singer/keyboardist Erika fell in love with the “harshness and the sweetness combined” of guitarist Simon’s playing.
In that context, their unusual band name is pretty perfect; few animals have the ability to be simultaneously adorable and terrifying quite like owls. They’re as powerful as eagles, but somehow softer-looking. Maybe it’s the round face, or the fluffiness, or their close ties to wizards. Perched in a tree, they’re pretty and majestic, but then they do that full head-turn thing and it’s like Linda Blair with a beak and talons.
If you don’t believe me, do a quick YouTube search for owl videos. You’ll find footage that proves owls can sometimes be as cute as a friendly Ewok, and sometimes as horrifying as an elevator full of zombies.
It’s the way that Thus Owls manages to tread that line between beauty and impending doom that makes them one of the more intriguing bands I’ve heard in recent times. This song is Thus Owls at their best; from the paradoxical title, “White Night,” to the unsettling figure standing in an otherwise pretty landscape on the album cover, this track seems to sum up all their contrasts and contradictions.
What makes this a beautiful song:
1. The contrast between the rushing arpeggios of the guitar and the smooth lines of the string section.
2. The surprising addition of an extra two beats in every other bar of the chorus.
3. The lightness of the strings, as they spread their wings during the song’s final minute.
Recommended listening activity:
Wearing your newest shoes over your oldest socks.