Owen - Ghost Town
Record Label: Polyvinyl
Release Date: Nov. 8, 2011
To many, Chicago singer/songwriter Mike Kinsella is a musical hero. To others, he is an above-average musician with a penchant for compelling songcraft and ruminative wordplay. And for the other third, he's over-hyped and run-of-the-mill.
Consider this reviewer as a subscriber of the latter third. That is until now.
Once again using the moniker of Owen, Kinsella's sixth full-length studio release Ghost Town is a heavily nuanced, deeply personal and absolutely spellbinding work. The disc begins with the gentle strains of an acoustic guitar and shortly thereafter Kinsella steps to the mic. It is then in those first few minutes that his crystalline delivery and equally crystalline guitar work takes center stage. Unraveling a dark and stormy personal affair, he sings "I'm not coming home until my insides hit the floor."
And it is this kind of sentiment that reappears throughout Ghost Town. Take for instance the near-flawless "I Believe" a piano-laden ballad that evokes a hymnal and is nothing short of stunning. While the song's sonic beauty is something to behold, the lyrical content is far more bone-shaking. In it, Kinsella sings "I believe there is no white light, somebody's mistaken or somebody lied."
But not all of Ghost Town is an envelope to despondence. In fact on the supple ballad "Mother's Milk Breath," he sings of the love for his young daughter, spouting off lines like "Do you know where your mouth is? Or how to tell a lie? Do you know what desire is? You will in time." Insofar as musical territory, the disc sifts from acoustic ballad ("O, Evelyn.." "The Armoire,") to more upbeat fodder ("No Language," "No Place Like Home,").
Kinsella is at his best when he probes his psyche nowhere is that more apparent than on "An Animal and "Everyone's Asleep in the House But Me." In the former he sings "I keep my secrets buried beneath us, under deep soil and stones," while on the latter he tackles the constant struggle to "walk a straight line."
And so it is in just nine short songs, Kinsella has crafted something deeply resonant, deeply impacting and most importantly, timeless. Odds are when the musical geeks look back on Kinsella's career, Ghost Town might be one of a select few that are looked back on as something truly special.