Magic Central, Breathe Owl Breathe’s latest album, is named after the cabin in the upper regions of Michigan where the band relocated to rehearse and play around in before recording. It’s a fitting name, because more than just twelve songs or a rustic cabin, Magic Central is a place you go to. In Magic Central, Shel Silverstein is mayor and Breathe Owl Breathe are obviously the town bards. Lead singer and guitarist Micah Middaugh tells loopy stories and wears one of those conical, blue felt sorcerer hats with moons on it, cellist Andréa Moreno-Beals provides the lovely backing vocals and counterpoints to Middaugh’s croon, and percussionist Trevor Hobbs keeps things bouncing and steady.
Breathe Owl Breathe not only create their own little magic town, but they also make it a warm and whimsical place to be. With acoustic strumming, simple drums and shakers, and subtle, catchy harmonies, the band invites you to a musical place where, “Mustache covers my lower lip / No one can tell that I’m trembling / Cross my heart and hope to live,” is a perfectly natural chorus. In fact, that chorus from “Own Stunts” is a great representation of the quirky yet melancholy yet hopeful sensibility that runs through Magic Central.
Breathe Owl Breathe’s ability to go from whimsical to somber within the space of a lyric or a song is also what makes their musical town somewhere where you feel the weight of real life as well as the fanciful joys. Micah Middaugh touched on this in an interview, saying, “We kind of like the haunted vibe with the playhouse vibe... A lot of people just notice the fun part and I think a lot of it comes from that darker place where things can go.” Like in the song “Dragon,” which begins with some spoken word of Middaugh telling the story of a dragon and his pen pal princess. The dragon is able to conceal his identity as a dragon (because of his good penmanship) but he still has a poignant question for the princess, “How do you stop loving someone?” It is this creative songwriting combined with care for the down-to-earth themes of life that makes Breathe Owl Breathe worth a listen, and Magic Central definitely worth a visit.