Kelly Lee Owens
Kelly Lee Owens



Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: dreamy and gray

The cover of Kelly Lee Owens' eponymous debut matches its music in a number of ways. Her intentional off-center position and that curious look on her face seem to go hand-in-hand with the wonder and wholesomeness found in the album's songs. And perhaps this is just a placebo effect caused by seeing the cover first, but the sound of the album also seems very, very gray. I don't mean that as a criticism - well, maybe slightly. Her lush, rainy techno-pop arrangements are exceedingly pleasant, and surprisingly pensive for the genre. But at times, in their strict competence, the songs depart from their soft, cutesy 'pleasantness' and move closer to 'innocuous:' a simple gray.

There are welcome bursts of color: most notably the guest spot on 'Anxi.' from Norwegian experimental folk/pop engineer Jenny Hval (a musician of such high stature in my mind that I nearly forgot to tell you who she is), whose simply angelic voice fits wonderfully among the low, understated techno kicks and the surrounding falls of strings. A few of Owens' melodies border on resplendent as well, mostly consisting of a few simple note changes clearly designed to float above the background rhythms, rather than ride along with them. It's hard to not be slightly enamored with the calm glee in her voice as she breathes "didn't know it could be so" in 'S.O' or "Lucid, lucid/Don't you see it?" in 'Lucid.'

Strangely though, despite one of the album's main drawbacks being its rife uniformity, other songs stick out as odd counterpoints to the album's aesthetic. 'Arthur' abandons any kind of 'pop' hook in favor of a symphony of distant "ooh"s, and this is precisely what makes the song so compelling, compared to most of the other tracks. It's evocative simply by rhythm and sound, rather than melody and word. Not that one is inherently superior, but the fact that Owens insists on the minimal techno-backbone makes the 'pop' aspect feel kind of shoehorned-in at times. As I mentioned, a few of her melodies here are effective, but more than a few end up rather tedious, such as the hook of 'Keep Walking.' It's a melody so simplistic you can hear the end of it before she sings it, and she repeats it far more than necessary. One can't help but wonder how much more enjoyable the song would be without any vocals at all.

There is a song here without vocals, 'Bird,' and it's nice enough. But unfortunately, it seems to fall into the trapping of being the 'lone' instrumental, as once it locks into its main groove, it kinda just sits there without any atmospheric variation, seemingly for the sake of adding length. Subgenres like house are built on repetition, but Owens doesn't seem to quite have a handle on the craft of that yet; when listening to 'Bird,' it's hard not to picture that slight cut you hear once the marker moves to the next dragged-and-dropped region in the program. '8' is slightly more successful on this front, as it employs a bit more variation in its rhythm, and as it's the one track after 'Arthur' that uses wordless vocals, again to chilling effect. I don't think it's a coincidence that those two tracks are the ones that feel the most natural. Of course there are ways to gracefully work a pop influence into music like this, but Owens' breathy, slightly disembodied singing voice is just too similarly colored to its surroundings to make the juxtaposition feel needed. Her artistic voice is clearly there, though, and clearly capable of something a bit more realized. Here's to something a little more lucid, lucid.



Recent reviews by this author
The National Sleep Well BeastJute Gyte Ship of Theseus
Jute Gyte DialecticsAbstract Void Into the Blue
Extra Life Dream SeedsIDLES Brutalism
user ratings (61)
Chart.
3.5
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
cylinder
August 12th 2017


1112 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

good album

Digging: Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center - Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center

Ryus
August 12th 2017


15433 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

terrific album, in fact

Digging: King Krule - The OOZ

Lucid
August 12th 2017


8588 Comments


this is a sweet listen, solid 3.5 debut. agree that it's monochrome but the uniformity works well. review is well-argued too, enjoyed reading it. track 4 is the best ;)

cylinder
August 12th 2017


1112 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

it'd prob be a 3.5 for me if her vox weren't so damn breathy. when she harmonizes w herself in songs like Throwing Lines it's just a little much imo. sounds like the harmonies just collide rather than truly harmonize



thanks Lucid :]

cylinder
August 12th 2017


1112 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

then again tho the beats leave some to be desired as well



we'll call it a celebratory 3

Ryus
August 12th 2017


15433 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

the atmosphere on this album is stunning to me imo, it glides along so smoothly

cylinder
August 12th 2017


1112 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

eh 'stunning' seems a bit overzealous. it does glide smoothly, but it feels kinda artificial to me a lot of the time

tacos N stuff
August 12th 2017


2667 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i respectfully disagree but this review was very nice bud

Ryus
August 12th 2017


15433 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"eh 'stunning' seems a bit overzealous."



maybe for you, but its just the right amount of zeal for me! one of my favorites of the year so far

cylinder
August 12th 2017


1112 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

'But it's just the right amount of zeal for me!'



I figured haha, that's cool man

cylinder
August 12th 2017


1112 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

aye thanks Tacos, can't go wrong with that username haha

zakalwe
August 12th 2017


23026 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Old Kel really does look like the bottom of the barrel after a night out. In for a penny in for a pound, fancy a shag?

Dewinged
August 12th 2017


5839 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nice this got a review. Album's great.



Lol at Zak's soundoff hahaha

Digging: Bell Witch - Mirror Reaper

Chortles
August 12th 2017


20741 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Glad this has a review now, and a good one! I'm with ryus tho, this is one of my faves this year

Digging: DJ Rashad - Just A Taste

BlushfulHippocrene
August 12th 2017


1913 Comments


Lovely review and artwork, will definitely check this.

verdant
Contributing Reviewer
August 12th 2017


1792 Comments


this is a good album and review

cylinder
August 13th 2017


1112 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

thanks guys



zak sit down, she's way out of your league

InfamousGrouse
August 13th 2017


4273 Comments


Throwing Lines is one of my favourite tracks this year

theBoneyKing
August 13th 2017


12320 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Not a bad album but it bored the shit out of me

Digging: Destroyer - Kaputt

Toad
September 27th 2017


1256 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

the vocal melodies on Keep Walking are straight Massive Attack

Digging: Oliver Francis - A Million Miles An Hour



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2017 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy