Owen – S/T


Quite possibly staking his claim as the more talented of the oft-admired Kinsella brothers, Mike Kinsella is back with his second solo album, this time forsaking the American Football moniker for that of Owen. The drummer in the re-united Cap’n Jazz (now called Owls), on this album, Kinsella plays all the instruments and creates something that’s nearly as good as the calm bliss of American Football’s masterpiece.
This one feels more like a solo outing, however, while American Football felt like more of a band project. On this album, soft acoustic guitar blends beautifully with Kinsella’s soft, dreamy voice, and there’s no doubt that he’s a better singer than his brother, Tim (of Joan of Arc fame). As on American Football, Kinsella uses some nice effects to layer his vocals and manipulate the drums, but nothing breaks the lovely, quiet guitar and gentle approach he takes.
“Most Days And” has this nice effects to the drums, giving them a deep, resonating echo, which provides a nice contrast to the sparse acoustic guitar and light vocal touch. “Sympathy and honesty / God knows I’m trying,” he sings, and you know he means it, as his vocals have such sincerity. On its companion piece, “Most Nights,” some female vocals dip in here and there for a very nice touch, and this more up-beat song has a wonderful flow, soft keys providing a kind of backdrop to the guitar and drums. Light keys add another dimension to the more introspective “Declaration of Incompetence,” and it flows seamlessly into “You Should Do it Now While it’s On Your Mind.” Again, female vocals fit beautifully here, and keyboards provide a kind of thick atmosphere far in the background. “Places to Go” is more upbeat and poppy, with some nice guitar parts and stellar bass.
Kinsella shows that he can do so much with so little. Even with sparse guitar and quiet atmospherics, the music on this album shines beautifully. It’s not slow-core in a Low style way, but it’s definitely laid back and simple yet the perfect fitting for his subtle voice. The absolutely gorgeous and so simple six-minute instrumental “Accidentally” is a good example, as is the little flourishes on the more abstract “Dead Men Don’t Lie,” like tape hiss, xylophone, and some very soft atmospheric keyboards that are all very subtle but vital to the song. The use of keyboards and up-tempo drumming provide a much more intense feel to the lengthy, quieter “Think About It,” which also throws in moments of electric guitar.
There’s little information in the packaging here, and instead you get blurry photographs in a simple layout. Yet that sparse approach is perfect for the music here. This is blurry day music, the kind of stuff that would sound perfect as you stare out the window to a rainy, gray day. And while the music isn’t precisely depressing, there’s a sense of melancholy to Kinsella’s soft voice that carries over so well. While not quite the work that American Football’s full-length was, this is another beautiful, wonderful album from Mike Kinsella.