Album Reviews, Culture, Indie / Alternative — February 4, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Dear Devotional: Christopher Owens’ Lysandre

by

Christopher Owens-Lysandre

Artist Name: Christopher Owens
Title Name: Lysandre
Label: Turnstile / Fat Possum / Love Da Records
Reviewed by: Indran Paramasivam

7.5

“I just had to make it, it’s been burning a hole inside of me for so long”– is Christopher Owens’ authorial comment on his Lysandre project. Typical of his reputation as one of the most honest and penetratingly engaging songwriters of his generation, the former Girls frontman reveals the beating heart behind the album: sheer necessity.

But don’t take it the wrong way, though. This is not an “I-need-an-outlet-to-express-my-inner-disquiet” album. This is work that marries a bristling imagination with a considered and well-crafted style to help its maker say what he needs to say. The themes of love, loss and distance were never held at arm’s length by Owens. What made him stand apart from the dime-a-dozen lachrymose pseudo-troubadours is his gift for exposing his inner self and all its glorious, tragic, confused and resolute states in deeply poignant, and, as he has won acclaim for, heartbreakingly candid ways. In his work with Girls, Owens’ genius was evinced in the sweeping feats of emotional impressionism he delivered over the course of three gorgeously worked out albums. And yet, in the biting chill of solitude and heartache, Owens uses irony to sing a different song of his experience. Self-expressing but always self-checking—this is Owens’ modus operandi and also what makes him such an intelligent and stylish craftsman.

Lysandre follows Owens’ confessional-ironic hybridity but presents it in a more direct and accessible way than in his work with Girls. The songs on Lysandre are shorter, foregrounding and bringing Owens’ meditations to the listener right from the first verse of each song. Musically, the sprawling folk-prog of Girls has been eschewed for a largely acoustic and sometimes jangly sound that is interspersed by moments of jaunty jazz, like on the upbeat “Riviera Rock”.  Also, Owens is a lot more self-aware about his ironizing, showcasing his gift in “Love is in the Ear of the Listener”, where he smirkingly intones, “What if I’m just a bad songwriter / And everything I say has been said before?”.  This is such a fresh and impactful way to address the ubiquity of the subject of love and the  frustration that comes with the initial reaction of boredom and it does much to illumine and develop Owens’ larger tropes as well. Owens is keenly aware that it’s not about where your influences come from but the places you go when you carry them with you. 

And so, this is a songbook of devotionals, a collection of hymns and parables that intersect as much as they sometimes diverge. But just as how “Lysandre’s Theme”—the album’s opener— is the musical refrain that appears in every song to reinforce Owens’ direction with this project, so do the messages and chronicles in the songs hold together in the larger grasp of Owens’ motive: to make the most of his experience in the best way he knows.  Don’t neglect this record.

 

Listen to the first single “Here We Go” below, or stream the entire album on Deezer.


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