Yann Tiersen, Breathe Owl Breathe
Early Warnings (Music)
When: Fri., Feb. 25, 9 p.m. 2011
French musician and songwriter YANN TIERSEN is best known for his soundtrack work, which really took off after he matched Amelie, kilo for kilo, in preciousness. But his sweeping, evocative album Dust Lane (Anti-) is insurgent, melancholy indie rock that forever builds to something just shy of tuneful cacophony. (Call it the Arcade Fire Effect™.) Tiersen's Frenchness (his real name is Guillaume!) is especially evident on this record, on which he sings in heavily accented English. On "Chapter 19" he sounds hungover and heartbroken, sighing more than singing, adding dollops of mandolin and accordion. If his music doesn't make you think of a dark, smoky cafe on a cobbled Paris street, with a sad Yann crying into his Chateau Latour while he sits at a piano, you simply aren't giving his charms a chance. —Jessica Hopper
Micah Middaugh, front man for Michigan folk-rock trio BREATHE OWL BREATHE, has trouble keeping track of the line that separates whimsical and eccentric from cloying and mannered. (Yes, the band has a song about a princess and a dragon who are pen pals. The dragon has excellent penmanship.) But the group's latest album, Magic Central (Hometapes), abounds with pretty melodies and inventive, exquisitely detailed arrangements, so that I've learned to overlook Middaugh's cutesiness—right down to his slack-jawed faux-Jonathan Richman delivery. Breathe Owl Breathe's secret weapon is Andrea Moreno-Beals, who tempers Middaugh's irritating quirks with her unflashy parts on cello or cheap keyboards and her sweet but soulful harmony singing—her contributions give the songs wonderful little jolts of surprise. —Peter Margasak
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