8 Songs, 37 Minutes

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Customer Reviews

5 out of 5

48 Ratings

At home, but too comfortable

Justin Runge,

Owen's Mike Kinsella has gone from being disarmingly avant garde to disappointingly predictable. "At Home With Owen" demonstrates that Kinsella has found a formula, but instead of being the acoustic mad scientist we’ve known, he's playing it safe and risking explosions. The elements are all present: the slow fade in of multi-tracked arpeggiated noodling, the breathy vocals stretched to almost synth pad proportions, the ornamentation of keys and bells, the sudden shifts to distorted fretwork. All these characteristics compose a sound that is unmistakably Kinsella, but quirky risks are absent. Identity crisis has worked to much success in Owen's past. His most successful effort, the restrained but impressive 2004 EP, saw shifts from effective indie rock to alt-country, plaintive shoegaze to solo balladeering. That record sang with the distinct mark of Owen without sinking to stagnation. Here, Kinsella settles for too much of a good thing. The compositions remain as intricate as ever, but the surprise factor has all but disappeared. The accompaniment drops leaving acappella voices right where you’d expect; the amps plug in at the anticipated moment; the fluttery drums scatter across the verses in just the way you’d imagine. At certain points, the instrumentation even sags to a shamble. “Bag of Bones” tries its hand at a springy pop step, but the guitars never seem to coalesce. The seven-and-a-half minute “A Bird in Hand” wanders aimlessly. The most effective tune, the succinct “One of These Days,” succeeds by cutting straight to the point and simplifying when and where necessary, cueing strings and tinkling keys at the right moment and holding back for the rest. That track lacks most where the entire album also finds fault, which is in the lyrics. Kinsella himself complains in “Windows and Doorways” that “this was a lot more fun when the music meant something to someone,” which hints at the lyrical apathy Kinsella is suffering from. Topics ring familiar, from the ever-present relationship laments to the alcoholic haze of nights spent on barstools. Kinsella has begun to repeat himself with criticisms of the clichéd, pleas to whomever may be leaving his bed, and allusions to his sweet bike and extended family of bartenders. Owen neophytes might be impressed by this collection of eight songs, but the seasoned vet of sleepless nights soundtracked by Kinsella’s previous albums will surely be bored and retreat to past LPs that experimented more successfully and effected more poignantly. Hopefully Kinsella will deliver a more startling and poetic love letter with his next effort and push the envelope instead of hiding in it.



Some of the most brilliant composition's of music i've ever heard... it's just simply beautiful

About Owen

Owen is Mike Kinsella, who's known for his important role in some of Chicago's most revered bands: Cap'n Jazz, Joan of Arc, Owls, and American Football. All of the projects with the exception of American Football were bands that featured both Kinsella and his older brother, Tim, a well-known Chicago musician in his own right. In the projects that included both of them, Mike was relegated to the role of drummer while his brother handled guitar work. American Football marked a turning point for Mike, as he was finally able to show his guitar-playing abilities. The band quickly became an indie darling, seen by many as the best of all the Kinsella groups. Although they released only one proper full-length, American Football made a lasting impression on many indie fans, and showed the indie world that Mike Kinsella was as good a songwriter and guitarist as he was a drummer. Owen picks up where American Football left off, both musically and lyrically.

After having opened up for Rainer Maria on tour, Kinsella returned home from the road with an album's worth of material. With tales of lost love and heartbreak, and utilizing his home studio and an acoustic guitar, he started recording songs that would become his 2001 eponymous Owen debut on Polyvinyl Records. Well received by critics and fans alike, the younger Kinsella returned with his sophomore release for Polyvinyl in 2002, entitled No Good for No One Now, a collection of seven songs that combined the intricate beauty of his debut with more stinging indictments of broken hearts and souls. Two EPs followed in mid-2004, the aptly titled The EP and a split with the Rutabega, Near and Far, Vol. 1, before the third Owen full-length, I Do Perceive, appeared that November. At Home with Owen surfaced two years later, and dates with Copeland and the Appleseed Cast were played in support.

In 2009, Owen reflected on marriage and family with New Leaves, and introduced strings to his musical mix for Ghost Town two years later. The seventh proper Owen album, L'Ami du Peuple, was released in 2013, with Kinsella exploring fatherhood, aging, loss, and beauty in his own now well-defined style. Late 2014 brought Other People's Songs, a collection of acoustic covers of songs by Lungfish, Against Me, Smoking Popes, and other unlikely candidates for mellow revision. For his first album made outside of metropolitan Chicago, Kinsella headed to April Base Studios in Eau Claire, Wisconsin to record 2016's The King of Whys with Bon Iver's S. Carey, who produced and played on the record. ~ Kurt Morris

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