Two years after the heavily acclaimed reunion tour of his original and most popular project, American Football, Mike Kinsella is back with his ninth solo offering under the Owen moniker and it might just be one of the most boring and by the numbers Singer/Songwriter albums I’ve heard in a very long time.
The album opens up with the very drab and monotonous Empty Bottle – a song that initially seems somewhat grandiose as it opens up with a simple acoustic guitar riff before the instrumentation suddenly builds up and doesn’t really change until something that resembles a chorus comes along to make things sound a bit lighter. One of my main turn offs about the album is the fact that Mike’s vocal performance often comes off as very tired sounding and a bit passionless at times; but it is nice to hear how much his voice has grown in comparison to how it sounded on American Football’s debut album.
The Desperate Act sounds like a song that would have been an outtake on Bright Eyes’ ‘I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning’ and actually makes up to be one of the better and less forgettable cuts on the record. The string arrangements are very pretty as is the subtle piano in the background and it works very well with Mike’s very Elliott Smith-esque use of layered vocals throughout the track and the album.
Whilst there are parts of this album that sound very pretty, I found myself struggling to keep going back to it as I kept losing more and more interest with each individual listen and it’s more or less due to the fact that it sounds very same-y the whole way through, the vocals were emotionless and a bit of a slog to endure and for an album of the Singer/Songwriter genre, I wasn’t too drawn to the lyrics that much at all which is a bit of a major disappointment. I went into the album looking for an interesting crossover of Midwest Emo and Singer/Songwriter sounds and instead I got a whole lot of melodramatic sounds that were done so much better by artists like Eliott Smith and Mark Kozelek years and years ago.
With all of this being said, I probably will go back into Mike’s discography as Owen and find something that is marginally better than this and probably better than American Football’s strenuously overrated self-titled album in the process.