Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Owen: Ghost Town

“Don’t wait up / ’Cause I’m not coming home / Until these demons get born,” sings Mike Kinsella on “Too Many Moons,” the opening track of Ghost Town. His sixth solo album under the name Owen, Ghost Town is awash in many such moments: snapshots of apparitions, refrigerator-magnet confessionals, memories made spectral. It’s not a marked deviation from past discs, but it does show signs of Owen’s gentle, stately erosion.

With the recent reunion of his iconic emo band, Cap’n Jazz, the thirtysomething songwriter and recent dad seems to have plenty to look back on—and linger over. “I paid for my sins / So I could come back / And sin again,” he admits in “An Animal,” slipping into the skin of a ghost himself as he plucks dark arpeggios and passes through shards of cello. Unfortunately, it’s one of the only tracks on Ghost Town that stands out from the pleasantly moody pack—another being “I Believe,” which billows like a bed sheet before building to an epic, distorted crescendo.

Kinsella’s edits his intricate guitarwork to a modest minimum, although he pulls out the stops on the richly layered “Mother’s Milk Breath,” a tune that probes the ache of fatherhood with an unflinching tongue. And his wordplay—which was never as contorted as that of his brother Tim Kinsella, Cap’n Jazz’s frontman—has settled into a witty, weary twist of phrase and soft pop of metaphor. Deaths in the family, watching babies sleep, the passing of seasons: They’re all steeped in the same flavor of bittersweet resignation. On the exquisitely exhausted title track, Kinsella mumbles in his sleep about “conjuring ghosts that don’t know they’re dead.” He sounds like he’s speaking from experience.

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