Owen – The King of Whys

Mike Kinsella is here with his eighth Owen record. This time with the drummer for Bon Iver (S. Carey) to produce; in Wisconsin (Justin Vernon’s house), during two separate nine day trips there. What Mike usually does himself, he did this time also with engineer Zach Hanson, Michael Noyce on viola, Ben Lester on the pedal steel guitar and keyboard, Andy Hofer on horns, and Jeremy Botcher on bass. And yet, in preparation for writing and (during) recording, he stayed isolated from the world, inside the house, away from home.

This record, normal for an Owen record, is personable and real. And sometimes because of that what you hear can sound ugly “If you give me this battle, I’ll pretend like there isn’t a lifetime of bitterness inside of me, An ugliness I hide from you”, “In my defense, I was raised by a blind man on fire, Who was raised to lip-sync in his church choir”, “We’ll get by or we won’t”, “Somehow all of the sudden I find myself struggling, Two lives are too much and not enough” that last quote talking about his double life of being known well musically and a life inside with his wife and kids. Where he finds himself wanting to be inside rather than on the road. And it’s also just the opposite. But it never tiptoes.

This record is beautiful just like the last and the rest, but it really shows since he collaborated with the others. “Lost” was the first song I ever heard off the record. I’ve already described this track, in a way. It’s charming. “Stay poor and die trying”. “Pack a bag and pick a fight, Lead with your left and leave while your lies still breathe, Wherever you arrive, pick another fight, And leave the fucking bag behind”. It’s beautiful, not in the “everything’s perfect” way, but in the sheer dryness in what he has to say. But that track wasn’t (musically) exactly what became of the whole album. In the rest of the record, there’s meticulous drums. A pedal steel guitar weaving with an almost ever present acoustic guitar.

If I’m in the mood for Owen, that means I’d be in a mood for The Desperate Act. Or Tourniquet. Maybe I’m sad, but they fit me well. S. Carey is a genius. Mike Kinsella is putting out plenty of quality music in 2016, and I’m not solely talking about Owen. American Football is putting out a record. More on that later. But seriously, Mike is busy and I respect him for it.

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