Steady Owl’s Debut Album Review: A Versatile Indie Rock Journey with ‘They are All Bastards Except Us’
The debut album of Cincinnati citizens, Steady Owl, ‘They Are All Bastards Except Us’, has a song for every vibe, whether it be the energetic indie anthem ‘Why California’, slow-burning headbanger ‘Best Days’ or the sweetly melancholic tune ‘Moondog’. With Roy Shrum on lead vocals and guitar, Jon Wiest on drums, and Jeremy Cullum on keys, this indie rock band is influenced by artists such as REM, Radiohead, and The Smiths.
The album carries themes of losing love—its lyrics deliver a hopeful upbeat opening with ‘Why California’, and progress to moodily emotive and self-aware indie rock with ‘Best Days’. The album title suggests that there are some toxic traits for the pair of ex-lovers, and this “comorbidity” is further alluded to in the lyrics of ‘Best Days’. The journey takes a winding road as this love-hate relationship unfolds.
In their October 20th release, Wiest shows his Jazz roots, having learned under acclaimed Jazz drummer Dom Moio, in tracks such as ‘Stop’ with emotively melodic grooves and atmospherically otherworldly rhythms in ‘To Keep Them Out’. The former track has almost a meditative quality, where the vocals take a supportive backseat as the percussion speaks for itself. Potentially my favourite of the album, this well-paced song is interesting for music enthusiasts while still being an easy listen.
Having created the atmosphere of a smokey bar, this is something I’d love to hear more from the band. On the other hand, ‘To Keep Them Out’ is a collection of crisp yet floaty synths, echoey melodic motifs, and seductive vocals that remind me of Muse. This soft indie rock song has a building chorus that ebbs and flows to maintain a passionate but pensive sound. The high-quality production of the album makes it enjoyable to pick out pieces of the accompaniment to listen to. Having been mastered by Brian Lucey, who’s also worked with the Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys, such quality is unsurprising.
Listen to ‘They are All Bastards Except Us’ by Steady Owl on Spotify:
While ‘Stop’ may be my top pick for the album, ‘Of a Boy and His Gun’ has an unexpectedly profound ending. The last minute of the track features booming drums that deliver gutturally elemental beats while the repeated guitar riff builds tension. Although this deep sound is matched with thoughtful and alternative tracks, ‘Is It Too Late’ creates the perfect autumn vibe with a warm guitar and shimmery atmospheric grooves, topped with heart-breaking lyrics that speak of “waiting for that dream again” and “drowning on this sinking ship”.
With a similar vibe to ‘Fade Into You’ by Mazzy Star, this particular track is reminiscent of melodic 90s influences; the hushed vocals add an emotional depth that the airy guitar harmonies subtly suggest. With a similar rainy-day playlist vibe, ‘Moondog’ provides sparkly melancholic verses and edgy passionate choruses that also sing to the influence of Radiohead.
The somewhat melancholy lyrics “Dust and dawning share the same sky, so why can’t you and I?” have been brought to life by the shimmering synths and glittery percussion. The Ohio band is worth listening to; chances are, you’ll be swaying or headbanging to at least one of their varied tracks. The obvious chemistry between Shrum on guitar and Wiest on percussion has led to the creation of melodic rhythms, engaging harmonies, and realistically honest lyrics. There is a primal oomph that cements this album in alternative rock but also includes more thoughtful and melancholic tracks which are more akin to Brit indie.
If you’re interested in listening to the album yourself, you can stream the album on Spotify, and all the other major platforms. For the band’s social media, find them on Instagram and on Facebook. If you enjoyed this, check out more reviews from IAMUR here… You might just find your new favourite artist!