Review Summary: Mike Kinsella once again puts his soul on display.
Mike Kinsella has spent the last two decades in and out of some of the underground music scene's most beloved and influential bands. In the mid 90's he was a prime mover in Cap'n Jazz, helping to add a new Midwestern swing to the burgeoning Emo genre. After the demise of Cap'n Jazz he helmed the laid back yet intriguingly technical indie outfit American Football. The last few years have found him going solo. With Owen, Mike Kinsella stripped down and refined the American Football sound into his own unique brand of biting acoustic confessionals. Interestingly enough, Kinsella's once wholly acoustic project has been slowly expanding in a fuller direction. It started with a string section here, an electric guitar fill there, and on the latest Owen release New Leaves
it has blossomed into a full on cohesive expanse of lush soundscapes. Kinsella's masterful finger-picking still graces every facet of New Leaves
, only this time sharing its glory with vibrant strings and twangy leads.
marks the first Owen album to be released since Mike Kinsella's marriage and the birth of his first child and even though his life may be moving in new directions his trademark cynicism remains alive and well. Throughout New Leaves
Kinsella lets us know that he is still the same emotionally strained and endearingly self-deprecating soul that we've grown to know and love. Between tales of literary romantics that “fuck like Wilde, and die like Hemingway,”
and shallow acquaintances that survive on drinks and one night stands, Kinsella reflects on his new found family fortunes, portraying himself as battered bag of bones that has finally found salvation and meaning.
closes with the bitter and nostalgic “Curtain Call”. A seemingly tired Kinsella laments “People used to pay to watch me sing and play/ but it seems more and more they come to spit in my face/ Well I'm tired of speaking up and speaking clearly so the idiots in the back can hear me”
begging the question if this is the end for Kinsella's music career. Whatever the future holds, New Leaves
is another gorgeous Owen album that proudly wears its heart on its sleeve.