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Sunday, April 20, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 71.0° F  Overcast


Paul Otteson: February Fables

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This Madison singer-songwriter's impressive 11-track debut recalls the best indie-folk of the past decade. Like the Decemberists, it's high on literary style. Like M. Ward, it's whimsical and poetic. Like Bon Iver, it's infused with emotional, falsetto vocals.

You can thank Aesop for the album's lyrical richness: Otteson recast the fables of the ancient Greek storyteller. His subjects include a fox and a crab, a frog and a scorpion, and a lion in love.

Otteson crafted these tracks over two winters as part of February Album Writing Month, a songwriting challenge project begun by former Madison musician Burr Settles in 2004. The February date of this Friday's release party is no accident.

The album's best moments feature bright and accessible melodies. Gently crashing cymbals punctuate the chorus of "The Astronomer," a track that looks for hope beyond places where the eye can see. Bass drum adds bounce to the guitar-meets-fiddle charm of "The Boy and the Nettles."

Otteson is joined on these tracks by guitarist Jeremiah Nelson, Midwesterners bassist Tom McCarty, violinist Shawn Drake and drummer Luke Bassuener. Together, they've made a gorgeous record that's sure to stand as one of the most memorable local albums of the year.

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