Sunday, March 2, 2008

At Home With Owen - Owen (RIPPED OFF '07)

At Home With Owen

Polyvinyl Records.

SCQ Rating: 81%

Another early January purchase, I eagerly picked up Owen’s latest after nobody responded to its exclamation on my 2006 Christmas list. Falling hard for Owen’s earlier EP No Good for No One Now, I was merely interested in this new release until I heard ‘Bad News’ on the internet and officially changed my record-buying priorities. Not only Owen’s first studio-recorded collection of songs, but also noteworthy in his newly married, reluctantly domesticated lyrical references, At Home With Owen proves he’s still a smartass in his relationship woes, but with age, he’s garnering some wisdom as well.

If his previous output (mostly recorded in a bedroom of his mother’s house) begged the question of what songwriter Mike Kinsella could do with a studio, At Home With Owen’s expansive sound answers quickly, as heard in the echoed piano and thudding percussion of ‘Bad News’. Kinsella remains as quick-witted lyrically as he is reliable musically, with ‘The Sad Waltzes of Pietro Crespi’ beginning like a classic Owen tune until warm strings rise and swoon the song into a beautiful close.

Most touching of all is the feeling that Kinsella is looking further down the road these days. Never one to mince words, his lyrical verve leans more toward rites of passage: marriage, commitment and death, which resonates best on ‘One of These Days’, which comments on the passing of Kinsella’s father amid a cascade of twinkling piano and folky guitar. Mixing his indie-edge in such soft arrangements makes this album his most accomplished to date.

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