ALBUM REVIEW: Owen – The Avalanche
Photo Credit: Chris Strong
Throughout his musical career, Mike Kinsella has pushed boundaries with unique composition and lyrics. As his solo persona Owen, his music developed from lo-fi bedroom recordings to expansive acoustic soundscapes, without ever loosing the incredibly personal delivery. Within the opening seconds of A New Muse, which opens this release, it is clear that The Avalanche is closer to his early work.
The gentle guitar and delicate vocal create an enclosed intimate sound, perfectly fitting the fragile emotion of the lyrics. As off-kilter guitars join there are nods towards the darker building sound of 2011’s Ghost Town, but with the addition of beautifully distorted keys and vocal harmonies the intimacy continues to build.
The combination of gentle guitars and keys becomes thematic within the most emotive moments of this release and creates what feels like an unbreakable bond. The level of introspection within these songs is often self-depreciating, but behind the bitterness and raw emotion hide moments of reflective beauty. The wordplay within Dead For Days disarms the listener, as lyrics of a metaphorical downturn create an incredibly clear snapshot of Owen’s emotions. As digital murmurs glitch away in the background there are moments of reflection for the hardest hitting lyrics, once more creating an emotional link.
Musically this may be a relatively stripped-back set of recordings, but there is room for musical muscles to be flexed. Even in it’s simplest form of voice and guitar this is a brooding example of complex guitar parts and delicate vocal interplay. In its fullest form, developed in layers of ever changing time signatures, there is a subtlety that never takes the focus from the vocal. By the end of On With The Show there is a rolling bassline, strings and keys delicately layered with a infectious chorus, and even with so many layers the honest emotion isn’t lost for a moment.
Lyrically this is a very hard-hitting selection of songs covering mental health, relationships and coping with your inner demons without pulling any punches. At times the raw phrasing is enough to stop you in your tracks, but these are real feelings and the frank delivery creates a deep understanding. The emotional intelligence of The Contours and I Should’ve Known creates songs that are equally beautiful and hard to listen to. Within the latter there are moments of dark humour that, rather than creating a comedic break, create a moment to question behaviour. This is certainly a release that encourages introspection from both writer and listener.
Where the wordplay within this release creates some tough situations, the musicianship and the clever compositions create nothing but beauty. At times this contrasts the darkest emotions, within Headphoned the delicate guitar line develops into an expansive musical landscape using distortion and harmonies. There are also moments where the backing elevates the open emotion, and the delicate instruments combined within Mom and Dead will create tears in the toughest eyes.
Overall this is a release that leaves one question; how can such sadness be so beautiful?
Standout Tracks: The Contours, A New Muse, Mom and Dead
For Fans Of: Dad Rocks, Bright Eyes, Shoes and Socks Off
Written by: Ben Adsett