This Week’s Past Life: “What an Ugly Scene We Make as Human Beings”

owen This Weeks Past Life: What an Ugly Scene We Make as Human Beings

Owen: Owen

2001, Polyvinyl Records

In 2001, Mike Kinsella, of American Football, Cap ‘n Jazz, Joan of Arc and Owls started a new project under the name Owen. The album he released that year under that moniker is a vast contrast to his days in the aforementioned bands… it is Kinsella stripped down to the bare essentials, soft yet raw, simple yet complex. The album, which is self-titled, is a heart-wrenching debut and introduction to the gentler side of Kinsella – the exposure of a complicated, and often-conflicted soul.

Owen starts with the instrumental “That Which Wasn’t Said,” a ballad that needs no words. From there each song rolls into the next without even space to breathe in between, as if the album is an entire song in itself. In fact, the album is so uniquely set up: first an instrumental, then songs “Most Days and” and “Most Nights” are back-to-back and one in the same, but lyrically different as it turns its focus from the thoughts of a confused young man to the scenery of a bedroom. This initial set-up is repeated again: the instrumental “Accidentally,” then “Declaration of Incompetence” and “You Should Do It Now While It’s On Your Mind” – these two tracks are enclosed around mirroring images of songs, as “Dead Men Don’t Lie” is “Accidentally” but with lyrics. Confused yet?

I guess what one needs to understand is the placement of these songs is no accident, there’s a concept and a purpose here – Owen is an intricate piece of art. It’s a lyrical gamut of emotions and an imperfect reality: “If you don’t wanna see the worst in me/You’ve got two choices/Cover your eyes/Both hands tight/Or just leave” he softly sings in “Declaration of Incompetence.” There is a sweetness in his words and voice, but without being weak or shallow – simplicity redefined and taken to a new level.

Since this 2001 debut, Owen has released four more full-length albums (and a handful of EPs and singles), and while I’ve loved them all, I don’t love any of them the way I adore this one. I don’t know if it’s the time in my life I associate with these songs, the break-up with my first love and how these lyrics so perfectly coincided with my own self-image, or if it really is just that great. Either way, it’s in my personal canon of the “good stuff” and worth a listen (or three or four).

By: Amanda Chatel

Trying to find a video of Owen singing any of these songs has been impossible… however, here is “One of These Days” from 2006′s At Home with Owen:

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