With a rollicking groove and a bouncy acoustic guitar harmony to lead the way, White Owl Red’s “Out of the Waters” comes swinging out of the shadows hard and clears a path for the trademark vocal of one Josef McManus in this cut off of his latest LP, Afterglow. In Afterglow, McManus’ White Owl Red project is sounding as warm and embracive as ever, and arguably putting down some of their most infectious and provocatively stylized beats to date – those in “Out on the Waters” included – but if you were expecting this artist to drift from his signature sound here, you’ve got another thing coming
White Owl Red’s lyrical approach in “Wake Up,” the title track, Hold On” and the poignant “The Way I Feel Now” is on par with what I was expecting to hear out of this latest release from the acclaimed moniker, and I think you could even make the argument that some of the songs included in this tracklist are even more poetic than the cornerstones of 2019’s incredible Existential Frontiers were. That was a smashing album from top to bottom, but the content in this record seems just a bit more vulnerable by comparison.
I would really like to hear “Through Is Through,” “I Walk the Line (For You)” and “Tip Top Bobs” live sometime, as they’re definitely sporting some of the slicker grooves that Afterglow has to offer. There’s a rare folk-rocking energy in the style of vintage Neil Young present in these songs that simply isn’t all that common in pop music anymore, but instead of sounding like a throwback, there isn’t a track here that sounds out of date or aesthetically archaic. White Owl Red knows how to straddle the line between classic and contemporary brilliantly, and that’s proven here beyond any sort of reasonable doubt.
After much anticipation from both critics and fans, White Owl Red turns in a killer sequel to Existential Frontiers in Afterglow that is almost certain to have your hips shaking and your head looping harmonies from morning to night, and though it doesn’t reinvent the game for its composer, it reminds us all of just how talented a soul he is, whether in the studio or out on the stage. From the grit of “Hell and the Blues” to the sting of a lightly overdriven “Working Class Heroes,” Afterglow never lets its listeners down, which is more than I can say about a lot of the big-name indie tracks making headlines this month.