Elijah Dhavvan’s collective sound, as Tobias The Owl, can be deceptively straightforward, built around an acoustic, campfire give and take. His earnest storytelling often bends reflective, giving shaded nods to overcoming a cancer prognosis. His well-titled new record, A Safe Harbor for Wayward Echoes (out later this month on Megaforce Records), sparkles with intuitive steps on a quest to give back.
Album opener, “All the Way Home” is carried by a whirl of organ, stretched electric guitar, and dampened percussion. Follow up “Let Go” is a winning pop jingle, ripened sweet by a generous chorus, sticky drumming, and green light guitars. Guest, Laura Veirs’s spot on harmonies bathe “Deep River City” in a gentle pass through the skyline’s glow, but “Open Sea” brings a wandering, Dhavvan into focus. The sustained guitar, parallel organ, and percussive snare stride own a chugging, black smoke call. When Dhavvan sings out, “soooouul” it feels like the train crests the foothills and is staring ocean deep.
Of the 10 songs presented on Echoes, Dhavvan wrote 160 more. Lyrically, Dhavvan toes the line between humble, journalistic murmurings and cryptic authenticity. His soft-rock troubadour edge may get lumped into an adult-contemporary imprint, but Echoes succeeds not in what’s being said, but how aerodynamically charged the surrounding music engulfs Dhavvan. The atmospheric ambience and rolling snare on “Spirals of the Dawn” and flourished strings on “Our Katie Waits” tell as much as the words themselves.
If Dhavvan sets the album in motion, its presence is reciprocated by Jonah Tolchin’s electric guitar and Andrew Joslyn’s violin. Tolchin serves an appetizer of reckless abandonment on “Holy Man” with Joslyn’s violin elevating Dhavvan’s lived in sound. Certain to be a crowd pleaser, the song’s scaffold vocals, lifting percussion, and communal character bust the rafters.
The stirring plucked closer, “When Words Have Fallen Through” skins the divide between science and faith and holds the mystery in both hands. Dhavvan’s approach is tender and genuine. He’s lived it. And like so many of Dhavvan’s songs on A Safe Harbor for Wayward Echoes, this one diminishes into the ether with a bright flicker.