Portland, Oregon’s Icarus The Owl pair pop structures and melodicism with progressive performance. As such, it is no surprise that they are a part of Will Swan (Dance Gavin Dance)’s Blue Swan Records. Their fifth outing, Rearm Circuits, is the most polished and mature album of their career, further refining the sound they began to develop on 2009’s The Spotless Mind. Rearm Circuits, released on December 1, showcases well-crafted songs, but ultimately makes for an album that is somewhat lopsidedly paced.
Leading off Rearm Circuits is “Failed Transmissions”, the most high-energy track on the album. Catchy, fast and technical, it answers the question everyone’s asking: ‘What would happen if Protest The Hero were contracted to ghost write All Time Low’s new record?’ The pop melodies, tapped guitar lines, and dynamic drums are a hallmark of previous Icarus The Owl music, and their incorporation into a soaring pop-punk song structure here is well-orchestrated. Its follow up, “Dream Shade”, covers a more diverse sonic territory – the breakdown-esque verses, clean guitars and upbeat chorus may seem like oddly paired elements, but they make for a track that is accessible while still having an unpredictable arrangement. Although the lyrics may leave a bit to be desired (‘I thought I needed you / I can’t believe it’s true / You lied until you’re blue‘), this is a strong single that demonstrates the group’s ability to funnel disparate elements into a somewhat cohesive whole.
“Coma Dreams” is a decidedly slower single. Its intriguing guitar moments and r’n’b groove conjure a welcome comparison to Eternity Forever. The song’s pounding chorus slows some of the album’s momentum for me, but the keys and aforementioned guitars keep the composition of the song fairly engaging.
Even though Icarus The Owl’s identity seems centered on fast, upbeat, catchy and technical songs, Rearm Circuits explores the surrounding, more nuanced stylistic possibilities. “The Renaissance of Killing Art” is a melancholic yet angry mid-paced anthem, and includes some welcome electric keys. “Burial Vows” starts with a quiet, mathy guitar lick before exploding into a powerful chorus. “Shadowboxing” closes the album with electronic percussion, acoustic guitars, and deftly dancing guitar lines.
Rearm Circuits proves Icarus The Owl to be an effective entry point for pop-punk fans into more technical and heavy music. However, this statement alone may oversimplify the songwriting skill of the group; the quartet crafts catchy choruses and diverse songs, refusing to pigeon-hole themselves into easy identifiers like ‘swancore’ or ‘pop-punk’. And yet, for all their talents, the pacing of Rearm Circuits inhibits the impact of the songs. Similar tracks are sometimes placed too close together, and the closing few songs on the album are almost all ballads, making for a slow second half. With pristine production, an ear for melody, and obvious technical ability, Icarus The Owl have made Rearm Circuits a strong collection of songs, but not necessarily a well-arranged album.
Notable Tracks: “Failed Transmissions”; “Dream Shade”; “Burial Vows”
FFO: Stolas, Dance Gavin Dance, old Fall Out Boy