Yowler is the pseudonym of Columbus, OH, resident Maryn Jones. She’s also in the bands Saintseneca and All Dogs, the former being the creators of my favorite album of 2014, Dark Arc. This album, The Offer, is her debut under this name and boy-oh-boy does it pack a punch. Falling in line with a lot of the other solo singer songwriter type deals coming from labels like Double Double Whammy and Orchid Tapes, this has emotionally wrenching lyrics, spare instrumentation, and bare-bones, beautiful vocals.
This record is an exercise in melancholy: the songs here are slow and bare, leaving plenty of room for personal thoughts to be interwoven into the musical landscape. The majority of the tracks prominently feature guitar mixed with Jones’ vocals; but additional instrumentation comes from piano, drums and the occasional floating noise/ambiance. The recording is very raw, picking up little details of the guitar playing and stray breaths that Jones takes. There are even moments where it sounds like Jones messes up the guitar part and stutters a little bit, but continues to record. It’s the realness of the album that makes it so alluring. It’s something you don’t hear all the time with the massive quantity of immaculately produced singer songwriter records that exist in the world.
In that way, this album reminds me a lot of Phil Elverum of Mount Eerie/Microphones fame, which is something that I’m not able to say often. The vocals are very immediate – the imperfections and emotional intensity are all forward, presented right at the listener. The instrumentation is also very Elverum-like. There’s very little added to them and they’re played clearly and soberly. The melodies are also very simple but continuously hold attention, always providing some slight variation on the themes, like occasionally adding multi-tracked vocals, harmonies, or extra instrumentation. It’s a marvelously arranged album, that’s for sure. Lyrically as well, this album has traces of Elverum-isms. The lyrics are personally driven with an emphasis on internal progression and forces from unknown, outside forces.
If you’ll allow me to get into semantics, like I always do, there’s so many warm, inviting textures on this record that could either twinkle like stars on a clear night, or perhaps even a lone candle lighting a dark room. Jones’ voice holds the weight of massive amounts of feeling, manifesting itself into many forms: sloshing confusion with the self, spreading roots of doubt; or dissatisfaction with the world and people around her, causing her to again look back at herself to see what is creating these problems. A brilliant self-reflection in music form, continuously flowing like a thawing river, providing new answers and new questions at every bend.
All in all, I’ve been listening to this one nonstop for the past few days. It’s been my go-to night music and music to recommend to my sleeping roommate, who I’m sure loves it. If you’re a fan of Saintseneca, Waxahatchee, Mitski, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Grouper, The Microphones, etc; you owe it to yourself to listen to this. It’s a lovely record that makes me feel those necessary sad night feelings. Don’t act like you don’t have those. We all do.
Trevor Morrison is the Music Director of WHUS. His show An Empty Bliss can be heard Monday nights from 10pm-12am. He also has the Thursday from 4pm-5pm chunk of New Spins Radio. All of this can be heard on whus.org or 91.7 FM.