Review Summary: Possibly Mike Kinsella's best album to date.
Musicians losing their artistic touch with age seems to be a common correlation in the music world. Some of the most famous songwriters such as Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney have reached their creative peak around age 30. With six albums in, it could be easy to assume that Mike Kinsella of Owen has showed the world just about all he has to offer. Now 34 years old with a wife and daughter it is hard to imagine Kinsella being able to keep up with his previous works. In 2009 Kinsella released the album New Leaves. The album left many fans underwhelmed and questioning if he would continue his career in music for much longer. Not to say that New Leaves was bad but that it had lacked the charm and memorability that could be found on his earlier works. Fortunately, Kinsella redeemed himself with Ghost Town.
Generally speaking, Ghost Town doesn’t sound much different than previous Owen albums. The zappy and creative guitar playing is still there as well as numerous melodic instrumental bits and the addition of drums and bass guitar. What makes Ghost Town unique is the combination of what Kinsella has done on previous records mixed with a few new minor ideas that enhance the album with well thought out songs. One thing new is the adding of group vocals on the track “I Believe” giving the song more personality. Another highlight of the song is the build up toward the end where the backing vocals and electric guitar chords turn around the rather melancholy feeling the first half of the song has. In the next song, “The Armoire,” a delicate piano line compliments the guitar in the verse while Kinsella demonstrates his finger picking skills. “An Animal” offers a darker side of the record with the feeling the cello and bongos bring while “O, Evelyn…” gives a brighter and warmer feel with violins accompanying the strumming guitar patterns. This all goes to show a great deal of variety within the record. With all of this said, some may find the album to be a bit much to listen to with all of the different layers of instruments and tracks on one song.
Ever since he was in American Football
, Mike Kinsella has been known to write some very influential lyrics. The lyrics in Ghost Town prove to be just as meaningful as the words Kinsella wrote over a decade ago. “I Believe” is a deep analysis of questioning God’s existence. “The Armoire” uses descriptive imagery to tell a story. But there are certain occasions, however when the lyrics shine the most. For Example, toward the end of “An Animal” Kinsella states:
"Maybe God will save my soul
but in this world I'm an animal with clothes on
An animal with needs"
Just as he says the last word the song climaxes into a dreamy instrumental jam that endures for the rest of the song. Another lyrically compelling part of the album is the last verse of the closing track that ends the album on a chilling note. While the lyrics uphold to be effective there are a few lines that seem to be out of place with the rest of the album. For instance, on “No Language” Kinsella talks about drop kicking an old lady and ignoring children. Parts like these can be enough to make some people cringe. On the other hand, it could be taken as Kinsella having fun with his music and showing that he does not always have to be serious to get his point across.
At the end of the day Mike Kinsella did not just put out another solid release, but some of his best work to date. Since the self titled debut Kinsella has developed as a songwriter and this album definitely shows it. Ghost Town triumphs its preceder and lets everyone know that age does not defy Mike Kinsella’s musical abilities.