I Do Perceive
is an album that familiarizes itself through casual interaction. There’s no need to be attentive at first – trust that the warmest melodies will register subconsciously, that key lyrics will hit in the most inconsequential moments. Mike Kinsella’s temperament grounds the weight of this promise: he remains level-headed throughout, guitar technique patient and comforting, as he pieces through his thoughts regarding the angels and addicts that surround him. What separates the Owen project from that of other singer/songwriters is that discomforting honesty is presented with thoughtful deliberation and a reassuring whisper – there is no emotional crisis to be found here. But there is a wealth of emotion infused in the brilliant lyricism, perceptions that are incisive and absurdly relatable. Take "That Tattoo Isn’t Funny Anymore," a track that deals out criticism and understanding all in the same breath. Confronting a trainwrecking friend on his behavior, Kinsella anticipates self-pity, adding “if it’s sympathy you need then I’m sorry but you’re not the only one that feels cheated.”
Despite this claim there is consolation in his approach, even in the apparent jab of “I hope I don’t make the same foolish mistakes I know you’ve made.”
The song cycles out with an absolute clincher of a line: “I don’t miss you. I’ll miss you when you’re dead.”
Therein lies the heart of the conflict, the tug between ditching the deadweight and the fear of losing them in the permanency of abandonment. And it’s all delivered in astonishingly revealing fashion.
I find that what makes us music lovers is the compulsive need to understand life through music, to dig into the core of what makes us ourselves in order to bridge understanding with others. With Owen, I find an artist along the same journey, turned inward in search for clarity. I engage with this album through the lens of my life experience; I am unaware of the circumstance that has Kinsella compromising with himself with: “You ain’t no goddamn son of a bitch, you’re just more unlikeable than you used to be,”
but when those lyrics hit as I’m spread out on the floor, inebriated fool that I am, it feels like nothing short of a revelation. On other nights I find myself smiling in the understanding that Kinsella reaches as he reflects on the loved ones that surround him: “It’s the little things that we do that mean anything.”
Because appreciation encloses all those minute details, those baffling ways in which we relate and grow close to one other. In I Do Perceive
, I find companionship in the means of comprehending life, a process that drives me to both epiphany and neuroticism, but one that amounts to genuine fulfillment.
Give me a moment to go deep into "Bed Abuse," a perfectly realized statement on resignation and the emotive peak of Kinsella’s art. The track emerges out of silence, expansive synths slowly pushing to the forefront, as Kinsella enters with gentle guitar-picking and an exposition of the scene: “I’ve spent most days in this bed that I abuse, on these pillows that you can’t get used to.”
Endearing chords drift about in contemplation, vividly replicating the feeling of sinking into warm sheets, as tumbling drums sustain the reality of time ticking away, viewed from the suspension of the bed state. “I’ve spent entire days putting off that which can’t wait, until I’m knee-deep in my own waste,”
he continues, reveling in passivity but mindful of consequence. The music radiates the most understanding comfort, caressing delicately in response to the uncompromising lyricism. But it retracts for a moment of realization, as Kinsella puts forth a sentiment that emboldens the song with forceful impact: “And I think that I’m justified, ’cause I’ve seen what trying’s done for those who’ve tried.”
He leaves the thought unfinished, instead expressing its weight through a distorted electric guitar cleave. A second verse floats by before time slows to a crawl for a moment of devastating consciousness: “And I think that I’m justified, 'cause I’ve seen what living’s done for those alive - little to none, little to none.”
The feeling of hopelessness that comes with that answer is one that I can barely articulate, so harrowing in its suggestion, but it takes me back to every time I’ve lived it. "Bed Abuse" captures surrender to inaction with stunning depth, expressing comfort and dread as mutual feelings, leaving an impact that is at once both reassuring and terrifying. On some days, I think it is the most powerful song I’ve ever heard.
As a final statement: I Do Perceive
is the product of a man with acute self-awareness, openly sharing his perceptions of the world he’s found himself in. And I’m thankful that he does, because god knows I need these perceptions in order to realize my own.