Release Date: Mar 7, 2006
Record label: Tomlab
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Electronic
Etiquette, literate plastic keyboard maestro Owen Ashworth's fourth release under the moniker Casiotone for the Painfully Alone introduced non-bedroom production into the mix, utilizing guest vocalists, strings, woodwinds, pedal steel guitars, and various synthesizers and drum machines from other companies into what was once a simple recipe. What sounds like a major overhaul on the album jacket is less so when applied to the 12 tracks that fill Etiquette's exoskeleton with meat. Fans who swooned over Ashworth's previous collections of snide, affecting, and consistently heartbroken pop songs will find that he's only taken the first step up from lo-fi, with at least half of the songs still residing in the thin, insular confines of four-track distortion filtered through corner store six-packs.
Owen Ashworth, like John Darnielle or Stephin Merritt in his early days, writes songs where the lyrics matter a lot more than the music. Ashworth doesn’t try to be as clever as Darnielle, and he doesn’t have Merritt’s romantic ease. Like both of them, however, his project makes the most of a limited set of musical resources. Indeed, a limited set of musical resources seems to be a means to an end for Ashworth; these are average people’s tales of heartbreak and woe, and it makes sense to set them to music whose origins are equally average.