Owen – L’Ami du Peuple


Artist

Album

L'Ami du Peuple

Label

Hobbledehoy Records

Year

2013

Genre

For Fans Of

The City on Film - Iron & Wine - Into It. Over It.

Summary

Another gorgeous, vivid release from Kinsella, pairing the emotion of trademark lyrical sincerity with a newfound zest.

Rating

80 / 100

It has been almost twelve years since American Football/Cap’n Jazz/Owls et al. alumnus Mike Kinsella first charmed our collective hearts with his first solo album under the moniker of ‘Owen‘. An unassuming self-titled, ten-track LP, the eponymous release was altogether intimate and fragile, welcoming us gently as if we’d just become privy to a small, whispered secret. Fast forward to 2013, and latest record, ‘L’Ami du Peuple‘ sees Kinsella‘s heart still worn firmly on his sleeve, while delivering what is sonically his most diverse yet.

For album number seven, Kinsella ditched his regular method of isolated and often quite brief home recording, instead bringing in producer Neil Staunch and spreading the process out over several months. Consequently, two things come across very clearly a few tunes into the album. Firstly, the amount of time Kinsella gave himself to play around and experiment to achieve the atmospheres and moods across the ten songs on ‘L’Ami du Peuple‘, and secondly, the album utilises a far wider range of instrumentation than on any Owen record prior. Eschewing the typically quite stripped-down nature of releases past, Kinsella takes full advantage of dynamic, comparatively energetic drumwork, flourishes of electronica, strings subtle and complementary at times, generous and sweeping at others, and confident electric guitar lines to build a much, much richer tapestry of sound and in doing so, adding a greater layer of warmth.

While, obviously, past Owen releases have dabbled with texture, it’s never been as focused or significant. Kinsella has offered when speaking about ‘L’Ami du Peuple‘ that the album represents a more “rock-oriented approach” than before, and it makes sense. Be it the toe-tapping rhythms on opening track ‘I Got High’ and ‘Coffin Companions’, or the immediate vivacity on ‘Bad Blood’ and ‘A Fever’, Kinsella‘s kicked some pretty refreshing life into old bones with his latest effort.

In saying that, no one does Kinsella like Kinsella, and ”L’Ami du Peuple‘ is still full of moments that feel inherently personal. There are a few tracks that manage to retain the sense of naturalistic, barebones approach of prior releases that equip Kinsella with little more than an acoustic guitar and a piano. As always, however, what makes an Owen album resonate as powerfully as it does is hidden inside Kinsella‘s confessional, introspective lyricism. To that end, we see in ‘L’Ami du Peuple‘ a songwriter that juxtaposes confidence with vulnerability (“You said something but I’m not listening / my whole world is caving in”), draped in a longing sense of questioning. “How long have I been sleeping?”, wonders Kinsella on album closer ‘Vivid Dreams’, “I’m a dad and my dad’s dead”.

Conclusion

With ‘L’Ami du Peuple’, Mike Kinsella has put together a record that feels very much a thematic and encompassing album, while giving each song an identity of its own that feels unique not just from other tracks on the record, but from a fairly extensive Owen back catalogue itself. Treading new personal ground with the scope of instrumentation used, it  feels as though Kinsella feels wonderfully confident in the arrangement of the album – even if the newfound ‘rock’ sensibilities may be overwhelming at times. As always, Kinsella’s lyrics are a strong point, delivered with reflective storytelling and unpretentious self-exploration.

Tracklisting

1. I Got High
2. Blues to Black
3. Love Is Not Enough
4. Coffin Companions
5. The Burial
6. Bad Blood
7. Who Cares?
8. A Fever
9. Where Do I Begin?
10. Vivid Dreams

2 Responses to “Owen – L’Ami du Peuple”

  1. bsmcvay

    A very good album. The inclusion of more instruments is a nice touch and there are a couple of brilliant songs on this album, but ‘At home with’ is by far the bench mark for Owen records and this is just slightly behind it.

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