14 September 2011

Owen - ghost town (2011, Polyvinyl)

Mike Kinsella still has got to record a bad album, and maybe even a bad song, and this sixth album is another confirmation where he even surprises long time fans by the high level of quality. "Ghost Town" is for a part known territory and for another part new light and the next chapter of his life as a man.

Instead of listening to the album with the normal order, I decided to go backwards, starting with the end.

There is this songs, "Everyone's Asleep in the House but Me", and I bet as long as he goes on as a songwriter,  there will be such self-reflection about, how personal, or simply human weaknesses are coming back and back again. This one is not particularly groundbreaking or original, knowing by heart already what's contained, the subject, the emotion, the melancholy, but there is just the presence of a a female second voice on the second part which really brings some interest and makes the song successful. It reminds me of Ida, Idaho or A Weather, which is a good thing. 

If "Mother's Milk Breath" falls inside the same category, the purpose is different, with Mike Kinsella documenting a new chapter of his life as a father. Pleasant, humble, documenting and sincere, at least, and yes, terribly human. The song ends abruptly and there is an extraordinary instrumental part at the end which reminds me of The Red House Painters circa "Shock me EP" and "Ocean Beach". 

The reason to come down and believe here is surely to be found on "No language". With tension and urgency, and a less obvious context, with feelings sometimes beyond control, and an obvious Red House Painters similarity with this capacity to balance complexity of textures and an immediacy of feelings and emotions, it is intricate, it is a labyrinth, it makes your heartbeat stutter. With his use of brilliant and strangely meaningful, refreshing lyrics such as "Ignoring bruises like children. Jumping out of every window left open and catching every branch on my way down", I once again realize how much and why Mike Kinsella is such an important songwriter for me, since 1998, with the first American Football EP.

Owen's songwriting is somewhat so standardized that it may be difficult to try something else without breaking it and "An animal" pays for such difficulties. The addition of cello sounds unnatural due to the speed of the song, Mike Kinsella is not taking the time and enough slowness to unfold his musical scenario, it's like a melancholic chamber pop song inside a bedroom folk song, and symptomatically only the second part is really convincing, when windows are opened, welcoming a refreshing breeze and enough space to breathe.

"The Armoire" is an instantaneous "all time classics" : "The armoire that you found by the dumpster
while visiting your sister's house. It looks fine in the living room where the others you've rescued go to die". Priceless and painful as nostalgia hits the wall of passing time.

Like "The Only Child of Aergia" or "Dead Men Don't Lie" and a few others, "I believe" is the kind of song where you're totally taken by surprise and projected up, high in the air, discovering and feeling alleviated that there are still good reasons to listen and look forward for new music which can shake up your world. Maybe there is no subject will less irony, but there is no irony in this song, just a good reason to feel upset inside and privately, deeply moved. Again and again. And musically, this is mind-blowing, like the best Idaho songs. Best song.

Like the "The Sad Waltzes Of Pietro Crespi", "O, Evelyn..." is a song I'll first dislike but finally singalong with, Mike Kinsella on his most sentimental and personal side. 

On the shoulders of "No Place Like Home" alone, this is already a successful album where he tries something new. The instrumentation, the lyrics, the textures, the structures are just so brilliant from the first to the last second. If there is one song to listen to and to keep on this album, it's here. Yes,  you may recognize instants, intonations, but there is a strength in this new song, which will make your appreciation for his talent just grow bigger. Best song, again.

With the 15 first seconds of the opening track, "Too Many Moons", you're already convinced it will be another good album from someone with a faultless discography. The rest of the song won't disappoint, with a false freewheeling, the exotic use of french words, strangely adds to the melancholy, creating a disprepancy, a tension which Julie Doiron often explored, offering an unexpected place for breathing and the strings are splendid.

A great album, an important one.

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