Release Date: Jan 15, 2013
Record label: Fat Possum
With his now-defunct band Girls, Christopher Owens was a stylistic crate-digger, repurposing classic-rock gestures. On his solo debut, he nails a Seventies-singer-songwriter sound oozing treacle and sincerity, all folk guitar, flutes, supper-club saxes and vintage keyboards. It fits the concept: a loosely autobiographical musician-in-love song cycle that reprises the same pastoral melody, from the genteel psychedelia of "Here We Go" to the reggae lite of "Riviera Rock." But couplets like "I remember lookin' up the barrel of a loaded gun/Texas cops and cookin' drugs" show something thornier than just a warm-fuzzy irony-free zone.
Review Summary: What if people are sick of hearing of love songs; maybe I should sing about dying? Or maybe I should sing about how on Earth I could control what comes out of my mouth?Lysandre, Christopher Owens’ first record since leaving indie rock band Girls, sounds somewhat too celebratory upon first listen, but it’s hard to begrudge the American singer-songwriter being in a slightly festive mood. While Girls and its many successes may now be a thing of the past, Owens’ newfound solo career has also provided him an opportunity to satisfy his own creative whims and fancies. Now unencumbered by other worldly concerns – Girls’ constantly shifting lineup, for instance (“I counted out the amount of people that were in the band over the years – it was 21, a giant amount of people; that's feeling disappointed 21 times over," explained the singer to Pitchfork Media) – Owens admits he is already sitting on a couple records worth of new material.
Christopher Owens looks artistically dishevelled, his face framed by the kind of lank blond hair last seen on Kurt Cobain. The 33-year-old singer-songwriter has gone down on record as an enthusiastic user of opiates and has recently modelled for Saint Laurent(designer Hedi Slimane has previously used fellow louche indie musician Peter Doherty). Owens's debut solo album is rather better than these factoids would suggest.
Christopher Owens had a relationship with the titular Lysandre, whom he met while playing a festival in France with his former band, Girls. His bittersweet solo album is only partly about their affair, though; it's also a diary of his experiences on Girls' first tour, when he could barely move for the weight of expectation heaped on the group. Girls' fuzzy-edged slackerliness has been supplanted by delicate arrangements for flute, strings and acoustic guitar, and vocal performances of surpassing warmth and fragility.
Looking like a character in a film where Ryan Gosling plays Kurt Cobain, the tousled ex-Girls frontman has taken a few cues from his one-time ensemble (a storyline about meeting the album’s titular lass while on that band’s tour; sunshiny soundscapes) while forging onwards alone. That he does it well seems strange from all the self-doubt he’s pumped into this solo debut. The 33-year-old Owens has funneled his usual druggy, droogy Flaming-Lips-stuffed-into-Beach-House tone into something cohesive and made it into Cali-folk popping and bright—with bits of classically gassy renaissance fair lutes and flutes for garnish.
“What if I’m just a bad songwriter and everything I say has been said before”, sings Christopher Owens on ‘Love Is in The Ear Of The Listener’. He adds: “What if I’m just lousy up on the stage and everybody is rolling their eyes”. Written around the time Owens’ former band Girls played their first European festival, the lyrics are ironic given just how futile Owens’ worries turned out to be.
Christopher Owens can’t outrun his backstory: Born into the Children of God cult and hauled to proselytize across Asia and Western Europe before fleeing as a teen and dead-ending in Texas. Stumbling across a wealthy benefactor and starting over in San Francisco. Finding lovers. Finding substances ….
Christopher Owens' decision to ditch/disband Girls came as a surprise, since many viewed the group as his personal creative vehicle in the first place. But as solo records tend to do, Lysandre exposes the dichotomy in writing styles between the singer/guitarist and J.R. White, Girls' only other constant member. It appears White was the force chiselling Owens' ideas into lean slabs of indie rock.
When Christopher Owen suddenly announced the dissolution of Girls last summer, I feared not only for a loss of momentum to his output, but also for a loss of focus. The excellent Father, Son, Holy Ghost was sharply defined by the contrast between the vulnerability of Owens’ performance and the rapturous, powerful backdrop of rock and gospel singers. But based on the evidence of solo acoustic performances (which, don’t get me wrong, were far from charmless), there was room for concern that solo Owens output might be far too wet without the spiritual counterbalance in the instrumentation; that the songs might lack form, and that meandering self-indulgence might win the day.
Christopher OwensLysandre[Fat Possum; 2013]By Colin Joyce; January 15, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetA lot of Christopher Owens’ commentary following his departure from the esteemed Bay Area indie rock troupe Girls seems to suggest a career ambition not often seen in musicians of his stature. Not content to ride out the wave of critical goodwill following the release of Girls’ 2011 release, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Owens has struck out on his own for a cycle of songs about a Frenchwoman he fell in love with on Girls’ first European tour. It’s a decision that appears curious from pretty much any angle you try to look at it, but it’s clear that Lysandre’s mellower instrumentation and sparser arrangements are a reaction to the near psychedelic grandiosity of Father, Son, Holy Ghost.
You can tell a lot about how Christopher Owens is feeling by looking at his hair. Back in 2009, when Girls first emerged, Owens' long, greasy locks seemed to serve a strategic purpose: They formed a thick veil behind which he could seek sanctuary, as he exposed the pain and longing that fuelled attention-seizing early singles like "Lust for Life" and "Hellhole Ratrace". The mesmerizing qualities of hair certainly weren't lost on Owens, who gave the name "Curls" to a blissful instrumental on Girls' debut, Album, and who used the lead-off track on 2011's follow-up, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, to reassert his "dirty hair" as an outsider status symbol.
There was widespread shock when it was announced in July last year that Christopher Owens had left San Francisco group Girls. The band, which Owens had started alongside bassist Chet ‘JR’ White, were showered in praise after the release of their second full-length album, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, making the decision to disband all the more surprising. In fact, virtually everything Girls released during their time together was of a consistently high standard.
CHRISTOPHER OWENS plays the Virgin Mobile Mod Club on January 18. See listing. Rating: NNN "What if I'm just a bad songwriter?" former Girls frontman Christopher Owens ponders in a song unpacking his fondness for simplicity and sincerity, classic pop qualities some might consider cutesy and derivative. "Love is in the ear of the listener," he says to those who do.
Christopher Owens has been praised as one of his generation’s shining talents, and with good reason. Father, Son, Holy Ghost – the 2011 opus of Girls, the band Owens somewhat abruptly left late last year – was an astonishing synthesis of classic rock revivalism, technical prowess and unashamedly direct, borderline-cliché-but-never-lame lyricism. You could hear everything from the Eagles to Spiritualized; the album arced from the wide-eyed, juvenile “Honey Bunny” to the grimy backstreet catscratching bell-toll of “Vomit,” a song whose last-minute apotheosis may or may not reestablish your relationship with a Higher Power.
If the hyper-sensitive, self-aware sorrow-pop of Girls wasn't your thing, then it is strongly advised to stay far, far away from this first solo effort from former frontman Christopher Owens-the dude is wearing his heart on his sleeve here, bigtime..
Christopher Owens is the quintessential “hopeless romantic.” Lost loves, the one that got away, the ones he had to let go – Owens seems to have experienced all of the above, or at the very least understands the pain they all can bring. Don’t believe me? Just look through the entire discography of Girls, Owens' now defunct band. Through two impressive albums and one EP, it’s hard not to find a moment that’s not dripping with heartache and desire.
The first words Christopher Owens utters on Lysandre is “So here we go,” as if he were readying himself and his fans for his maiden voyage as a solo artist. But in the context of Lysandre, he’s actually referring to embarking on his first tour with Girls, which is the theme of Owens’ autobiographical concept album. Ironically enough, Owens’ well-documented attempt to break away from his past with the gone-too-soon Girls only ends up circling back to his claim-to-fame gig as the narrative focus of his debut on his own, as if Lysandre wasn’t already going to be saddled with inevitable comparisons between his new endeavor and the band he initially made his name with.
After deciding to split his group Girls in 2012, Christopher Owens released his first solo record, Lysandre, in early 2013. Girls' short career arc went from scrappy, reverb-drowned eccentrics to majestic psych-prog-tinged rock, but his first effort finds Owens stripping back on both reverb and majesty in favor of a more organic, intimate sound. Split between confessional, Baroque folk ballads and bubbly rockers, the brief album traces the splintering of a love affair with all the melodic strength and clunky lyrical style associated with Owens’ previous work.
Few generalizations can be made about modern indie rock when both of Monsters and Men and Dirty Projectors are considered by some to be modern indie-rock bands, but here?s one: Not much of it is as candid as the songs Christopher Owens writes. The first thing to learn about Owens is his long, frequently tragic back story ? raised in the infamously oppressive Children of God cult, he led a nomadic early life and has dealt with addiction for much of his adult years. But instead of emerging as some hardened, enigmatic figure, Owens?s career has been defined by his perpetual, endearing, and ? it should be said ? unironic openness.
On “Love Is In the Ear of the Listener,” Christoper Owens sings, “What if I’m just a bad songwriter/ And everything I say has been said before?/ Well, everything to say has been said before/And that’s not what makes or breaks a song.” What comes to mind is John Cage, who wrote: “Do not create and analyze at the same time. They are different processes.” Owens’ failure is that he’s trying to do both in the song: jam the analysis of creative anxiety into a shrugged irreverence, all tied up in the language of every cliché related to the subject possible. “Beauty’s in the eye of the beholder” really does exactly what a drained cliché does: nothing.
The break up of Girls was something of a surprise back in the summer. They’d never been more popular. Second album ‘Father, Son, Holy Ghost’ was a stunning, critically acclaimed record. They were a band who people really invested in emotionally. However, on reflection, their demise makes ….
Owens’ bid for a place in the pantheon of gifted greats is on course. Martin Aston 2013 The reason why Girls’ singer-songwriter Christopher Owens left the band’s co-founder, bassist/producer Chet "JR" White, in July of 2012 after just two albums (2009’s Album and 2011’s Father, Son, Holy Ghost) wasn’t initially clear. He now says the band’s high turnover of support members was too disruptive.
“Dear All… This may come as a surprise to many”, wrote Christopher Owens on a twitter post, dated July 2nd. The break up of Girls played out like one of those shock divorces. And rather than being the nosey old couple that sit in their third person positions and peep through windows to watch other people’s relationships physically unfold in the wee hours of the morning, we were sat in the first person.
No matter what he’s singing, Christopher Owens has a way of sounding like the most earnest guy in the room. That sincerity lent an interesting tension to his more abrasive work with Girls, the San Francisco indie-rock band he cofounded before it dissolved last year. Now Owens is on his own, trying his hand at being a candid singer-songwriter. “Lysandre,” his solo debut, is a slip of an album, 11 songs under 30 minutes, and it’s a fascinating curveball.
Christopher Owens arrived at the table in 2009 with all of his cards facing up. Cults, wealthy benefactors, drug addiction—nothing was off limits for this guy in interviews. His over-sharing probably would have overshadowed everything else if Owens’s music with Girls weren’t so good. From the 2009 debut, Album, through the 2011 LP, Father, Son, Holy Ghost—and even on the band’s excellent 2010 EP, Broken Dreams Club, in between—Owens revealed himself to be as open a songwriter as he was a talker, constantly sharing sad details in his lyrics about his own broken heart and failed relationships, to the tune of a guitar inspired by oldies radio balladry, surf rock and psychedelia.
“What if I’m just a bad songwriter / And everything I say has been said before?” This question opens “Love is in the Ear of the Listener,” a dirt-simple tune towards the middle of Christopher Owens’s Lysandre. It’s a common fear, of course, that not being completely “original” makes one a bad songwriter, but it’s also an unproductive one. In a way, we’re all doing things that have been done before, but it takes guts to push past that notion, put yourself on the line, and fully invest in your own point of view.