2008 was a big year for indie-folk music. Just to give you a bit of context, that year saw the release of: The Tallest Man on Earth’s Shallow Grave, Shearwater’s Rook, Fleet Foxes debut album, and Lie Down in the Light by Bonnie “Prince” Billy. That’s a hell of a year for any genre. But during that year, a small band from Pullman, WA was perfecting their sound, and crafting songs for an album that would go on to be just as important for this corner of the Pacific Northwest as any tune by a bearded band of mountain men.
Yarn Owl debuted in 2009 with their Tiny Dots cassette, an 8 song EP full of home recorded folk tunes, not far from the sound of bassist Tim Meinig’s previous band, Band of Horses. What those early songs lacked in production value was more than made up with the beautiful shimmering guitar work and some jaw-dropping drumming by Ted Powers.
Since then, Yarn Owl has recorded an EP titled Stay Warm and a brand new full-length called Montaña y Caballo. Montaña, recorded over a weekend in a barn near Moscow, ID, contains many familiar elements that Yarn Owl has displayed over the years. Many of these elements have been tweaked and refined into something more representative of the expansive nature of a Yarn Owl track. Take the eponymous “Embrace Our Place (Montaña Y Caballo)”, which begins with lead singer Javier Suarez singing alone, before a wash of guitar effects and drums drive the song towards a sprawling guitar solo. Progression like this existed on previous efforts, but becomes more apparent with the increased production value.
While Montaña carries some heavy songwriting, the beauty shines when they take everything down a notch. “Summit”, a low-key acoustic solo track by Javier, provides a refreshing interlude between two fast-paced jams. “Follow the Coast” is driven by a shaker and Suarez’s vocals, soaring high above the rest of the instruments rather than melding in to harmonize.
Despite not expanding beyond the highways between Boise-Seattle-Portland, Yarn Owl have achieved something that bands with double the albums and thousands of times the fans have yet to do: find a sound, perfect it, and stick to it. In today’s world of genre blending and labeling, Yarn Owl is a friendly reminder that there is merit in doing things your own way. Even if they aren’t as popular as Fleet Foxes or Band of Horses, for any connoisseur of Northwest indie-folk, Yarn Owl are one of the most important bands of the genre.
Check out Montaña y Caballo in the preview rack today, or purchase it at Yarn Owl’s bandcamp page.