Mike Kinsella is one of those artists who always seems to be working. And among that work, his solo project, Owen, has easily become my favorite of his. The King of Whys, which dropped in July, was an easy pick for a recommendation.
The record kicks off strong with “Empty Bottle” and with the album being an efficient 10 songs, skipping any doesn’t seem necessary. The song sets up the general tone — having a full band blend with powerful lyrics and a tinge of acoustic guitar. If you’re already familiar with Mike Kinsella and his body of work, you’ll know what you’re getting with the LP, which is some, raw, emotional songwriting, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s refreshing to not have to worry about whether or not you’ll like an artist’s next album. And while it would be nice to know how both he and Evan Weiss juggle so many projects, I’ll take the consistency despite having so many.
The main reason for recommending this album is the blend of the acoustic with the full band. He really knows how to make the acoustic instruments stand out in the midst of a full band and it’s really what makes Owen such a fun project to listen to. “Settled Down” starts with just straight acoustic guitar and the band fills in once Kinsella starts singing, but you can still hear that acoustic. Then, you have “Lost,” which brings a lot more of that singer-songwriter feel. Yes, you have more than just the acoustic guitar, but the song is stripped down in comparison to the rest, and it’s a great track to end with. While the lyrics may not always fall in the “fun” realm, I find it enjoyable. I once had a chance to interview Mike and I think that was the moment that I really knew I wouldn’t just dig the music, but I would dig him as a person in general. You can tell just by his songwriting and how much of himself he puts into this project. It feels like his most personal one, and you start to feel like you know him through his music. Be sure to check out The King of Whys when you get a chance. It really is worth your time.