Owl & Mouse - Departures [12"/CD]

Artist: Owl & Mouse
Title: Departures
Format: 12” vinyl album | digifile CD
Cat#: Fika044LP | Fika044CD
Release date: 24th July 2015
Bandcamp | Spotify

 Parting is sweet sorrow in Owl & Mouse full-length debut

London based 5 piece Owl & Mouse release their debut album, ‘Departures’, on Fika Recordings in July, after winning hearts with their ‘exceptionally beautiful’ EP, Somewhere To Go. 

The quintet are led by Australian songwriter Hannah Botting, sister of Allo Darlin’ bassist Bill Botting. The release of their debut coincides with the bands tour of the UK and Norway, joining American label mates The Smittens.

The boldly open hearted yet delicate songs come straight out of the same school of Australian songwriting as The Go-Betweens, Triffids and Courtney Barnett, with lyrics that draw on the familiar to talk about the universal difficulties of fond farewells, baggage carousels, and missed connections.  

The results manifest themselves in a collection of songs that are both infectious and joyous. Those familiar with the band will delight in the understatedly emotive tales of love and loss, which are enriched by special guests (as well as a brass section, Allo Darlin’s Paul Rains and Michael Collins step in on guitar and percussion) and show the fruits of years of live performances and a greatly expanded line-up. Fans of the Magnetic Fields will delight in bassist Tom Wade’s Stephin Merrit-esque baritone, which leads the heartbreaking ‘Sinking Song’ with bold intimacy.

Owl & Mouse began life as a sister act, with Hannah and Jen Botting, before expanding after recording their last EP, to include Tom Wade (We Aeronauts) and the prolific pairing of Emma Winston and Dan Mayfield (Enderby's Room, Darren Hayman's Long Parliament). 

Singer and ukulele player, Hannah Botting, said: “It’s now been eight years since I moved away from my home town, and it’s getting to that point where you’re not really sure where your home is any more. That feeling of being a bit lost and a bit unsure but excited at the same time, is something that sits underneath all the songs.” 

Press for Departures

"Modest quintet bring a shadowy sweetness to delicate debut: A London-based 5-piece, centred on Brisbane songwriter Hannah Botting (sister of Allo Darlin's Bill), Owl & Mouse have courted comparisons with The Go-Betweens and Triffids. Structurally, there are similarities, but the delicacy of Botting's voice adds a tone of vulnerability. They can sound cute ("Misfits", with Botting accompanying herself on ukulele) but there are dark notes (the self explanatory "Sick Of Love"), made darker by the occasional intervention of Tom Wade's baritone (on "Sinking Song" and the duet "Octopi"). You might call them twee, but modest is more accurate. The songs are hardly there at all, but they linger sweetly." Uncut [7/10]

"Exploring themes of travel and adventure and the mix of anxiety and excitement they bring, there’s a pleasing feeling of whimsy, but, given titles like Sick of Love and Worst Kiss, that doesn’t mean there isn’t also a quite melancholic streak behind the sweetness of Botting’s often lovelorn lyrics. Cases in point being the ruminations on family in the rippling Misfits, the brooding Basic Economics with its view of love as a question of supply and demand and the rather lighter musical mood of Canvas Bags where she sings about having to hang on to someone you love or let them go to spread their wings. There’s an optimistic side too, the latter number being counterpointed by the scratchy, uke-strummed Louie where, adopting a short delivery somewhere between Lily Allen and Emmy The Great, she sings about keeping the flame burning even though she’s waved her lover off." Folk Radio

"Fans of Emmy the Great will find much to enjoy, and occasionally bassist Tom Wade drops in to add Lee Hazlewood-ish charm, growling shyly on songs such as “Misfits” and “Sinking Song”. The overall tone is laid out in the titular chorus of “Sick of Love” but Departures isn’t a mordant affair. It sparkles with an observational wit that lifts it, even on the violin-tinted hopelessness of “Louie”, about keeping the flame alive for a lover who’s leaving, a theme that reappears throughout. Every song sounds as if there’s a story attached, making the listener want to know more. It’s not an album that has any attack – except, perhaps, the two minute brass-fuelled bounce of the title track – but Owl & Mouse’s simple, understated odes to a heart-worn sadness eventually have bite." The Arts Desk

"Departures gives a good account of the band and shows the indie pop buying public what an asset to the genre Botting is as a vocalist and lyricist. Production wise there’s a really strong start with Keep Your Eyes Open Wide, which features some lovely synth work from Winston that perfectly matches Botting’s vocals. Winston and Botting’s combination is a real strength in the band that is exploited well here. There are other strengths too. The combined vocals of the band, especially the baritone of Wade work really well. Sick of Love is another strong track, with guitar added to the mix and the vocal arrangement on Misfits is wonderful." Neon Filler

"Simple ukelele-led tales of boy meets girl are at the forefront of this debut record that will soundtrack your summer romance or have you falling in love all over again with the one you share it with. Ex-pat Australian Hannah Botting's lush vocals and poetic couplets about lost homes, relationships and friendships can't help but pluck at heartstrings, whether it be the regret of single Canvas Bags, "You only get two great loves, and I've wasted one", or capturing that initial feeling of falling in love on Misfits, "And now you're here, I'm certain I have been wasting my days 'til now". The same could be said of this record, quite simply, the best of 2015 to date." NARC

"Both former single 'Octopi' and 'Sick Of Love', which starts off as Kate Nash with a ukulele, build from Botting's raw delivery into something more ambitious as they close with a joyfully mournful chorus of five voices." R2

"the album is beautiful, it contains romantic and loving lyrics with upbeat melodies, but can still pack a punch." Muso's Guide

"Opener, ‘Keep Your Eyes Open Wide’ has a hint of Belle & Sebastian’s ‘Boy With the Arab Strap’ about it and there are perhaps unconscious nods to Camera Obscura and early Slow Club, but to focus on that do them a disservice. There is an assuredness to the playing and an attention to detail lyrically, that ensures that repeated listening is rewarded." Americana UK

"the 11 songs of Departures are sweet and poignant and reach out to the listener in the same way as, say, Camera Obscura; the sense of the excitement of travel and discovery combined with feelings of displacement and identity has an universality that marks out Departures as the impressive arrival of worthy new talent." SoundsXP

"The summary strength of the record is in the telling. Each song seems to have a story behind it; substance to offset the ephemeral overtone of the music, lines that catch the imagination of the listener. A very promising debut indeed." Best New Bands

"If music of a gentle, beguiling nature appeals to you then prepare to tumble head over heels. Owl & Mouse write indie pop lullabies that are beautiful in their simplicity, charming in their delivery, often heartbreakingly personal and devastatingly effective. They are crammed full of wistfulness and melancholy but they’re also uplifting and provide a calmness and contentment that’s exactly what’s needed much of the time." Overblown

"Twee is not for everyone. Twee is very easy to get wrong. Just because you can play a ukulele, doesn’t mean you should. All of the above are true. However, when it’s done just right… there’s something kind of wonderful about twee indie-pop. Fika Recordings have a knack of separating the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, so I knew I could go into the Owl & Mouse album fully confident that it was going to be premium grade twee, rather than some overly earnest cover versions made by someone in a deliberately naff jumper. No, Owl & Mouse take the good bits of the genre and mould it to fit what they want to do. All across Departures there are twists and turns that prevent it from becoming either 11 versions of the same song or facsimiles of genre stalwarts like Allo Darlin’ (though one of the band is actually the sibling of their bassist) and it’s all the more enjoyable for it." Amazing Radio

"Departures is an album of subtle progression. Last year’s Somewhere To Go EP was the first signs of Owl & Mouse moving on from their beginnings as a duo and becoming a full blown band and Departures is a logical progression from there. There’s plenty of the sparse balladeering that marked their early EPs, but there’s also some much richer, denser numbers. Sick Of Love is based around the slowly descending refrains of a buzzing organ and gentle meandering bass, Octopi closes with a beautiful burst of fluttering electronics, reminiscent of Elbow‘s more recent output. Whilst the excellent Worst Kiss starts of as gentle piano-led number, the sparsely used keys throughout are a joy, oddly reminiscent of Cat Power’s The Greatest, before giving way to subtle percussion and layers of pulsing strings, possibly their most mature piece of song writing to date. The most enjoyable moment here though is the title track. Departures, features a wonderfully lilting electric guitar riff, as Hannah spins a tale of the pain of constant departures, and gorgeous layers of horns play out a melancholy melody in the mould of Camera Obscura. It’s only just over two minutes long, but with the fabulous layered vocals in the chorus paints a picture of where the band could go next." For The Rabbits

"The basic approach wraps itself around your ears, drawing you close into the lyrics, discussing the emotions of saying goodbye. As the song unfolds there’s some really lush accompaniment filling in the space that lays empty…there’s added strings and really light percussion. It’s a remarkable start for the group’s debut, Departures" Austin Town Hall

"The interplay between the lush instrumentation and sharp, direct lyricism creates a delicate tension, as though the two elements are engaged in a constant chase that could equally result in a burst of beauty or emotional devastation. Or maybe both at the same time." Killer Ponytail

"The band’s sound is atmospheric, with a focus on being fairly calm. Now, calm can come across as lacking in enthusiasm if it’s not done right, but Owl & Mouse avoid that trap very nicely in that it’s very hard to picture them doing their music any other way and it feels like a perfect match for them. The band use mostly acoustic instruments in their music, which gives them a sound that isn’t QUITE folk sounding (Ruth Notman and Kate Rusby, this is definitely not), but which has enough overlap that fans of more modern folk who don’t mind a bit of pop influence should be able to find this enjoyable, along with indiepop fans." Cuckoo Review

"they price match their sparse twee melodies with bolstered arrangements, reminiscent of Andrew Bird (the violin flet-fricks of “Misfits” take on the simple ukulele chord sequence) or the National (see the piano additives of “Canvas Bags”). This isn’t a barebones record, and nor is it produced in the suppressive twee tradition where it sounds like Stuart Murdoch’s trying not to spill red wine on his new carpet -- instead Owl & Mouse ignore the acoustics around them in favour of getting their songs out." Norman Records

"It's her songs, though, that make Botting worth paying attention to. 'Worst Kiss', with its warm violin and raspy baritone vocal form bassist Tom Wade, is as cosy as an old duvet; the unrequited love in 'Louie' is the essence of all romance; and the lollaping keyboard rhythms that underpin 'Keep Your Eyes Wide Open' make it very special indeed". HiFi News

"Both former single ‘Octopi’ and ‘Sick Of Love’, which starts off as Kate Nash with a ukulele, build from Botting’s raw delivery into something more ambitious as they close with a joyfully mournful chorus of four voices. There’s a danger that these tracks are too wispy and cute to make a serious impact but on a warm summer’s evening they certainly fit the right mood." Yorkshire Evening Post

"The chorus is as cute as a picnic hamper full of kittens, but it's catchy as heck and makes you go back for more. Twee indiepop this may be, but it's of the highest standard, and is incredibly easy to fall in love with." The Sound Of Confusion

"Oddly enough Owl and Mouse turn out to a London-based quintet fronted by Australian sisters Hannah and Jan Botting. The 11 tracks on their debut album are delicate, memorable and poignant." Scunthorpe Telegraph

"never less than enjoyable" Peterborough Telegraph

"there are nods to Hank Marvin at the start of the title track, which shortly becomes a cross between ‘Ladykillers‘ era Lush and the big stage musicals of the 1970s. Or there’s ‘Octopi‘, sounding rather like Kate Nash in places and returning to the theme of leaving that runs consistently throughout. Well, it IS called ‘Departures‘ after all... this is lovely stuff" God Is In The TV

Hannah Botting interview - Overblown