Breathe Owl Breathe: Magic Central (Hometapes)

Straight outta rural Michigan comes this chamber-folk trio, equipped with a fifth album of whimsical tunes, refreshing melodies and gentle rhythms. Considerable cheers are owed to Micah Middaugh (guitar, banjo, vocals), Andrea Moreno-Beals (cello, piano, harp, vocals) and Trevor Hobbs (drums) for pulling it all off with nary a hint of irony or cynicism.

Breathe Owl Breathe finds magic in the mundane, such as on the nimble old-English-style folk-rock of "Own Stunts," or the quiet embrace of "Swimming," a leisurely stroll punctuated by organ and synth bleeps. Witness the hypnotic meanderings of "Across the Loch," "Dog Walkers of the New Age" or "Lion's Jaw," each of which is a story-song of more substance than you initially may think. The songs here might seem lightweight while they're playing, but the album's depth will linger long after the CD stops.

The best track is the deceptively simple "Dragon," a fairy tale so deadpan it could be a Jonathan Richman tune. It recounts the doomed pen-pal romance of a dragon and a princess, made possible by the dragon's unusually good penmanship. By the time Middaugh sings, "How do you stop loving someone?" you realize the song is an allegory for star-crossed lovers and feeling as if you're a monster in love with royalty.

In Magic Central, Breathe Owl Breathe has created an album that is utterly charming without being sappy.

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