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Album Review: Owen - Ghost Town

Mike Kinsella is best known as a stalwart of the Chicago indie scene, having been a part of many projects best known only to Illinois music lovers.

His minimalist, primarily self-sufficient endeavor Owen is officially known as a side-project but, after a decade’s worth of material released, it certainly deserves to be considered as seriously as one would any other of his offerings.

Opener ‘Too Many Moons’ can legitimately be described without irony as gorgeous, commencing as it does with plucked nylon string guitar and whimsical woodwind-esque held notes before soft, well placed strings drop in and out to articulate the languid verse. It’s a beautifully pitched, appropriately quirky beginning to an intensely personal record.

Second track ‘No Place Like Home’ is more restless, uneasier and less immediately welcoming; still though, it is persuasive in its use of melody and, with it’s “There’s no place like home” chorus motif, provides a compelling emotional anchor.

It is on tracks like the somewhat over-wrought ‘I Believe’, however, that the virtues of being ones own boss occasionally look more like vices. It’s not the overtly religious tone that grates here, simply that somehow the song doesn’t hang together as well as those that have preceded it, plodding along for six minutes without really coming to a point of focus.

It is that comparison that ‘Ghost Town’ can best be characterized. It’s individualism is both it’s greatest strength and it’s key weakness; the work of one person is always in danger of straying into self-interest. Fortunately Kinsella does this seldom enough that it’s only a passing concern.

At its base though, ‘Ghost Town’ is generously strewn about with moments of exquisite beauty. Aside from the aforementioned, tracks such as ‘The Armoire’ and ‘O, Evelyn…’ provide dreamy soundscapes of hypnotically beautiful lo-fi pop. While songs like ‘I Believe’ and ‘The Animal’ do wallow, the quality papers over the cracks.


'Ghost Town' is out November 8th on Polyvinyl Records.

Nick Worpole

Alter The Press!