Words About Music
Owen “L’Ami Du Peuple”
For a 36-year old, Mike Kinsella sure has accomplished a lot over the past 20 or so years. He formed his first band at the age of 12, the cult-favorite Cap’n Jazz. Cap’n Jazz was one of the first bands to combine post-hardcore and emo to create the now famous “Midwest emo” sound. Mike drummed for the band, his brother Tim sang, and towards the end of the band’s career, Davey von Bohlen (now famous for fronting The Promise Ring) joined up on guitar. Cap’n Jazz broke up shortly after releasing their debut album, when Mike was only 18 years old. He subsequently formed Joan of Arc, an experimental outfit he still performs with today. In 1997 he formed American Football, another very influential emo band that combined the midwest emo sound of Cap’n Jazz with math rock elements of groups like Don Caballero and Slint. American Football only released one album and one EP before splitting up in 2000. Mike and Tim formed indie rock outfit Owls, which featured every member of Cap’n Jazz except von Bohlen. Owls broke up after releasing one album, which left Mike to focus on his solo career under the name Owen. Since 2001, Owen has released 7 albums, including the new album “L’Ami Du Peuple.”
The music that Kinsella releases under this project is quite the contrast to some of the music he made with Cap’n Jazz and American Football. Owen’s music is less instrumentally complex, and features more calm vocals. It does draw slightly from the Midwest emo sound the Kinsellas are known for, but the project is mostly straightforward singer-songwriter, with a few noticeable changes.
While this is definitely a Mike Kinsella solo project, there are still songs on this album in particular that include some of his signature time signature defying musical assaults. While most of L’Ami Du Peuple is quiet and based around the acoustic guitar and Kinsella’s vocals, there are some tracks that even recall some of The Dismemberment Plan’s softer songs.
If anything is apparent from these ten songs, it’s that Mike Kinsella is a phenomenal musician, and a great songwriter, but that’s definitely what carries this album. He doesn’t really sing with the passion that he sang with in American Football. I mean he’s a better singer than Conor Oberst, but at least Conor sings with passion.
Now this is not to discredit Mike Kinsella, or his solo project. Some great albums have still come from the Owen project, and it’s always great to see him try something new, but it’s been a while since I’ve heard any of the great emotional passion that I want to hear out of Mike. With groups like The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die, Dads, and Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) calling back the intense, powerful 90s emo sound that the Kinsellas helped popularize, it’s about time Mike Kinsella released another powerful project to remind us he’s still the master. Thankfully Owls are back together, and one can only hope for another Cap’n Jazz reunion, or—wishful thinking I’m sure—an American Football reunion. Until then, we have a ton of great albums to remind us that during the 90s, Mike Kinsella was the master of the Midwest emo sound, and for now he’s making singer-songwriter music that isn’t dreadful. And that’s all I feel comfortable asking for.
SCORE – 7.4
FAVORITE TRACKS – Blues to Black, Who Cares?, A Fever, Vivid Dreams