A horrible hack

Owen

New Leaves

Year Released: 2009
Format: CD
Label: Polyvinyl
 
Reviewed by Dan Bennett on Dec 13, 2009
It only takes a few seconds of "New Leaves" to realise that this is the latest effort from Mike Kinsella under his alter-ego Owen.

Normally I wouldn't say this is a bad thing but in the case of "New Leaves" it initially seems be a problem.

On first listen, "New Leaves" doesn't really seem to offer us anything new, just more of what we've come to expect from past releases.

However it's beauty seems to lie in repeated listens, as much to the point whereby I actually ditched the review I wrote after the initial first few plays.

Despite what was mentioned about bringing nothing new to the table, you cannot fault him for following the "If it isn't broke…" path. "New Leaves" contains some of my favourite moments from Kinsella's career as Owen, particularly the luscious "The Only Child of Aergia" and "Never Been Born", which also highlight Kinsella's progression as a songwriter, demonstrating his ability to structure songs more thoroughly, gradually building up songs instrument by instrument.

Along with much improved structures, "New Leaves" sees him progressing from earlier releases with a fuller sound due to a more varied choice of instrumentation and allowing producer Brian Deck (Modest Mouse, Hot Club De Paris) to take the helm at the desk.

One thing that definitely hasn't changed over the years is Kinsella's frank and honest lyric writing. While he writes some of the most beautiful lyrics, some are essentially thoughts straight from his head to paper, and whilst they may not sound impressive on paper, when put to music they mean everything. For example "I always thought I'd end up owning my own boat before a home" sang over what sounds like the last breath of a violin seem to highlight his regrets and dreams that have not come to pass.

The album also seems to mark a turning point in Kinsella's life, with his marriage and birth of his first child having a positive impact on both his lyrics and music. Take "Amnesia and Me" for example, an upbeat almost country-like ditty coupled with possibly the most uplifting lyrics he has written to date, highlighting the importance of the album's title.

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