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Owen
Owen
Polyvinyl Records


Owen is a strange and beautiful little record. The band and the album are fundamentally a solo project for Mike Kinsella, who has played with American Football, Capín Jazz, and Joan of Arc. He has also collaborated with Kyle Fischer and Cait De Marrais of Rainer Maria. However, little of his previous work would prepare the listener for Owen.

The album is presented almost as a single composition, with one tune softly blending into the next, some tracks acting as reprises to others, lyrical morsels appearing and reappearing, and a unifying mood that is both sweet and melancholy. The sonic heart of the record comprises an acoustic guitar and a voice that sounds like an effects-drenched Elliott Smith. On this foundation, layers of multi-tracked guitars are built and rebuilt, punctuated by electronic drones, chimes, and surprising moments of silence.

The sprawling, spacious, and aurally luxurious feel of the music may remind one of the lush space-rock of Spiritualized, but the lyrical content shares little with Jason Pierceís drug-addled mysticism. True to his emo roots, Kinsellaís lyrics stick to earthly topics, such as love, human relationships, and self-esteem. "Declaration Of Incompetence", a delightful celebration of self-loathing, contains one of the recordís surprising lyrical highlights: If you donít want to see the worst in me, youíve got two choices: cover your eyes with both hands tight, or just leave.

Owen is a record that surprises at every turn. At times the songs are simple, strummy acoustic numbers built loosely around their lyrics, while at other times they are complicated fingerstyle instrumentals with no discernible melody. "Accidentally", for example, is an austere guitar piece, consisting of a repeated guitar figure and ever-increasing layers of sounds. If it werenít for its six minutes of length, you might think itís a sweet little interlude, but Kinsella allows the track to become a composition in its own right. Later in the record, the same simple guitar figure returns, but this time as accompaniment to the vocal reprise, "Dead Men Donít Lie", which is half the length of its instrumental complement. In the aforementioned "Declaration Of Incompetence", the individual quiet verses of the song are layered on top of one another at the end to create a climactic collage. Unless youíre watching your CD player, you wonít notice as this track becomes the next, the magnificent "You Should Do It Now While Itís On Your Mind".

If forced to pin Owen down to a genre, Iíd feel compelled to create the category "ethereal acoustic". Think of the quietest and most unassuming Cocteau Twins recordings, or of the most rootsy Spectrum track, or even of the spaciest Mazzy Star. Owen is subdued, gentle music that has the same effect as a soft-talker: you want to lean in closer to hear what itís all about. When you do, youíll find that there is, beneath all of that hush and tranquility, a healthy dose of unrest, anger, and good old-fashioned longing, all beautifully and painstakingly arranged for your pleasure.

ó Eryc Eyl

Track Listing:

  1. That Which Wasnít Said
  2. Most Days And
  3. Most Nights
  4. Accidentally
  5. Declaration Of Incompetence
  6. You Should Do It Now While Itís On Your Mind
  7. Dead Men Donít Lie
  8. Places To Go
  9. Think About It

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Mike Doughty



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