Owen Meany’s Batting Stance
Halifax, Nova Scotia
RIYL: The Weakerthans; Neutral Milk Hotel; a less hyper John Darnielle
For folks who grew up playing hockey in Canada, it can still feel gratifying (if not altogether revolutionary) to name and discuss the ways that the sport scarred its participants. It usually feels like a useful allegory for all the other ways society fucks us up before forbidding us from discussing them.
That’s part of why “The Androgynous Hockey Stick,” the lead track off Feather Weights, the new record from Halifax band Owen Meany’s Batting Stance, lands so squarely in my heart. It’s a bit of alt-folk-rock perfection with a cheery, wistful trumpet melody and an imaginative attention to minutiae that would make John K. Samson blush. The narrative finds vocalist Daniel Walker fielding homophobic slurs and cruel jeering after he opts to aid an opponent rather than capitalizing on their misfortune. He’s made a misfit for demonstrating care rather than aggression. This doesn’t feel like a hockey story; it feels like a life story.
The rest of the record never quite reaches the melodic or narrative heights of that opening, which is perhaps to be expected, but it paws successfully at the same form: careful, dense lyricism, spacious arrangements, pop-but-not structure, and Walker’s endearing vocal deliveries. The comparisons to the Mountain Goats and Neutral Milk Hotel hold water, and the writing, composition, and targeted tenderness on Feather Weights rise to the competition.
– Luke Ottenhof