As impressionism goes the use of animals can be an effusive and effective way in which to communicate an idea. Fox, Owl, Crow, as the name suggests, take off from this point of reference. Instead of being a device, Suzanne McEnaney says that her use of such symbolism is at the basis of the band’s style, laughingly professing to the fact that she might go mental if she didn’t otherwise.
The name, and also one-third of the moniker of band leader Suzanne (Fox) McEnaney, recalls childlike and innocent images the like of which could put you in mind of such things as the fearful wanderings of the fox, the introverted wisdom of an owl or the Gothic, predatory instincts of a crow.
All of these coagulate around the individuality of McEnaney and her fellow band members, combining those initial ideas with another, more personal shade of song-writing. Instrumentally Fox, Owl, Crow make use of percussive and baritone instruments like the cello, one part of the large string section that puts you in mind of certain other neo-folksy artists like Amiina and My Brightest Diamond, both of whom the band admire.
As such the lyrics are quite personal, so much so that an unprepared but observant listener may find themselves cringing slightly. That’s to the great boon of the band, as lyrics like those on Wolf – “When will I wake in a permanent state,” – may only be discernible to the initiated, but they are written with such powerful language that the lines stand out quite as significant as the music. Different people are going to take different interpretations from the cryptic lyrics.
The pace of the album is at times disconcerting. What starts out, on title track Fox, Owl, Crow, as a very vulnerable, heart-on-the-sleeve sound soon turns dark and introverted on Wolf. The overall story explored seems to focus on one person inhabiting a kind of dream-world, a fairy tale if you will, before being wrenched out of that dream-state by the cynical Wolf.
Of course it’s all about love and the mistakes made in a relationship, with plenty of reflection and regret on show throughout. ‘Fox, Owl, Crow’ is an album full of relief, the type which can be difficult to confront but also necessary and the emotionality of this exploration is relatable, sounding real and human despite the woodland creatures.
All in all Fox, Owl, Crow have made a beautiful record here. Apart from the odd attempt at things too ambitious at this point in time, everything fits together to create a delightfully moody and highly poetic album.