Following the careers of brothers Mike and Tim Kinsella is no easy task. Together they formed Cap’n Jazz, the band that would steal the term emo from Washington, D.C., and claim it for the Midwest. Since then the brothers Kinsella have collaborated on various projects, each one specializing in a different facet of indie-rock, and with their frequent collaborators shooting off in different directions, the band’s family tree is vast and tangled. Yet the one-off project Owls, which reunited four-fifths of Cap’n Jazz, remains the most unified entity from the challenging artists.
Owls’ lone, self-titled album was released in 2001, and though the songs were sharply refined, they still packed in the exuberant energy fans expected. But it’s been well over a decade since Owls, and with the band members spawning countless projects since, it’s fitting that the aptly titled Two is just as adventurous as its predecessor, but in distinctly new ways.
Where much of Owls was built on intricate, prog-influenced riffs from guitarist Victor Villareal, Two sees him shake this off as he finds more in common with the Melvins’ Buzz Osborne than anything tagged as emo in the past decade. On tracks like “Four Works Of Art…” and “The Lion…” the similarities to the sludge masters are front and center, with Villareal’s riffs trading in dancing arpeggios for the dirge of stoner-metal.
But for all its changes, the album still feels like it should bear the name Owls. “I’m Surprised…” and “Why Oh Why…” could have easily nestled themselves onto Owls’ B-side, proving that the band’s biggest asset is its ability to pull hummable hooks out of off-time rhythms. It’s inevitable that with longer songs making up the bulk of the album, the band occasionally gets lost, taking longer to make the thesis of each song known, but, eventually, they always come through. Ultimately, Two succeeds for the same reasons Owls did: by never acknowledging there were any expectations to be met and instead allowing the band to create without compromise.