Mike Kinsella has been putting out a continuous stream of excellent music from and around the Chicago area for more than 20 years. He started in the punk band Cap’n Jazz with his older brother Tim. They put out one full length album and a handful of singles before splitting up in the mid-90s. Afterwards, Kinsella would briefly form American Football, a three-piece math-rock band. They released one self-titled record before splitting up too...
Due perhaps to the underground legacy and success of these previous projects, combined with a very loyal tight-knit fan base, Kinsella has gone on recording records and touring under the pseudonym Owen. His records have been received fairly positively by his fans and are mostly pretty solid. His intricate guitar work and moody unwrought lyrics are thoroughly unique, a difficult task for a singular singer-songwriter in an unrelenting sea of moderately talented singer-songwriters.
Owen’s new record is called L’Ami du Pueple. It’s his seventh album as Owen and was named after a French newspaper published in the late 1700s. The record garnered a slight amount of controversy upon its announcement, because its artwork features a young white girl wearing a feathered Native American headdress bonnet. This was perceived as offensive by the oversensitive crowd, but has no bearing on the actual record.
L’Ami is a fairly quiet and invigorating record. Its Kinsella’s third record since the birth of his daughter, and first since his son. His lyricism has definitely matured a lot since his American Football days, and it shows on this record particularly. While his record, Ghost Town seemed reflective and nostalgic, perhaps missing the days of old, L’Ami has hopefulness to it, and a certain sense of present especially with tracks like “A Fever” and “Love is Not Enough” feel very in-the-moment and while the latter is rockier for sure, they’re both key to getting a feel of where things are lyrically for Kinsella. And if they are an indication, things are going quite well.
While the B-side of the record does suffer a little bit with filler, the first side is almost entirely without flaw. From the opening lines of “I Got High”, the instrumentation is great and the lyrics are pretty solid albeit slightly cliché triviality of some of his more romantic lyrics. “Love is Not Enough” is kind of a front runner with that, but it’s also one of the best tracks on the record. “Can we find a place in heaven, that doesn’t flood when it rains?” Kinsella sings and sends shivers up your arms.
While I did enjoy the last Owen album, Ghost Town quite a lot, (I actually named it one of my top 10 from 2011at the time), I would say L’Ami du Pueple is superior, and his best since perhaps his magnum opus, 2006’s At Home With Owen. L’Ami is a passionately pure record that well balances Kinsella’s punk upbringing and background with his folkie styling and intricacy. ‘