Release Date: Dec 2, 2014
Record label: Polyvinyl
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
Cover albums are generally pretty hit-or-miss, with the misses outweighing the hits 90 percent of the time. Some are packed with butchered versions of classics; others consist of straightforward and boring interpretations, and most seem to lose sight of the original songs’ substance. Thankfully, Mike Kinsella’s latest release as Owen steers clear of all of the above.
Mike Kinsella's softer side has come out as gentle, sadly poetic offerings from his Owen project, an acoustic foil for his more electrified work over the years in Cap'n Jazz, American Football, Owls, and other far less subdued bands. The stark honesty of Kinsella's lyrics and presentation in Owen is a huge part of what has made it one of his most popular projects. It often feels as though he's confessing the darker, more hidden parts of his life directly to the listener, and it's an incredibly personal feeling.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. For the uninitiated, here's a quickfire run-through the Owen back story - it's as relevant now as it'll ever be, I suspect. For all intents and purposes, Owen is Mike Kinsella, the Chicago musician who - along with older brother Tim and cousin Nate - is a part of the Kinsella emo dynasty that has involved bands like Joan of Arc, Cap'n Jazz and Owls, to name just a swift hat-trick.
Around this time in 2009 (give or take a month), Sting released an album called If on a Winter’s Night…, a collection of very seasonal yet very somber songs that Starbucks understandably hawked as a Christmas album. Sting, in true Sting fashion, insisted it was not a Christmas album or even a holiday album, but a “winter album.” The statement pissed me off because a) I love Christmas, b) come on, and c) Sting always seems to be overly serious about this sort of thing. With Owen’s Other People’s Songs, I finally understand what Sting meant by the term.
No matter who Mark Kozelek (he of Sun Kil Moon, and devout War on Drugs fan) decides to cover—be it Modest Mouse, Husker Du, Low, or anyone else – the chosen song always comes out sounding more like his own than the actual artist’s. This is partly because Kozelek often doesn’t just recreate a song with different instrumentation or a change of tempo; he reconfigures the chords and melodies to the point where they would often be unrecognizable if not for his graciously keeping the lyrics intact. That’s just part of the Kozelek treatment.