Central And Remote: Owensie
A lo-fi indie pop gem has just been released on Out On A Limb Records. The artist in question is Owensie AKA Michael Owens and the band’s second studio album, ‘Citizens’. Owensie-on guitar, vocals and synths- is joined by a formidable cast of musicians who create the shimmering backdrop to Owensie’s songcraft. For fans of Elliott Smith, Belle & Sebastian, The Dodos and Jose Gonzales, your name is written all over this beautiful folk pop opus.
Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry
Earlier last year, Owensie’s debut album ‘Aliens’ was released, showcasing Owensie’s gorgeous blend of classical folk. On the follow-up, the sonic palette has widened, creating a divine bossa nova infused classical folk sound. At Owensie’s core is the soft nylon strings of classical guitar and Owensie’s heartfelt vocals. The instrumentation of strings (viola), brass (saxophone), synths, bass and drums are intricately layered beneath Owensie’s delicate vocals. ‘Aliens’ begins with a pounding drumbeat and pulsing minor chords. The opening lyrics of “The well’s dry and the grain is running low” conveys harsh times and dark days that loom upon us. The vocal delivery is sublime, where Owensie’s vocals melts into the mix of the brooding guitar tones. Later, the song develops into stomping blues with soaring electric guitars combined with layered harmonies. Feedback of guitars signals the end. ‘Go On’ is a torchlight folk lament in the vein of the late Elliott Smith. A gorgeous pop sensibility runs throughout. Glorious harmonies and electric guitar notes laden with pop hooks provides the score to the bleak prospects and emigration of today: “Go on, Go on/You’ll be sorry if you don’t/Let’s break the spell/We’re never going home.”
The current single ‘Distance Of Her Love’ is one of the album’s highlights. The song has it all. A dream-like acoustic guitar strum and soft drums/percussion. A sublime saxophone arrangement that breathes life and soul into the ballad. Later, a viola melody counterpoints with the brass. It’s as if Andrew Bird has mysteriously appeared into the mix. Magic is unfolding during these special four minutes. Think Juana Molina or Jose Gonzales. ‘As You Grow’ is lovely bossa nova, written for his son. The chorus is as fresh as a sweet summer’s morning, “As you grow, go higher/Let your love and imagination flow”. The drums provide that glistening pop beat. The guitars create the infectious groove. The endearing lyrics are words from a father to his beloved son. ‘Penny Of The Year’ is a compelling lo-fi indie journey. Owensie’s vocals and sparse guitar is immaculate; “All I need is mountains and blue skies/Where I live and surely will die” is a lyric on the closing verse. The tempo and feel changes with ‘Circle Of Lies’. A thick bass groove provides an irresistible funk sound. The swirling notes of saxophone provides a jazz funk jam. The refrain of “what if no one knows/What all the answers are” over the brass and funk rhythms is one of the album’s milestones. It’s got the funkadelic beat that Nile Rogers and Chic would be proud of.
‘Doing It All On Your Own’ is chillout bossa nova. Piano notes and acoustic guitar flows beneath fragile vocals, “It’s hard to restart with a broken heart” sets the mood. This song reminds me of Belle And Sebastian such is its sheer pop quality. ‘Rogue Trader’ is perhaps my favourite song on ‘Citizens’. A viola melody are the first notes you hear, bringing me back to Dylan’s ‘Desire’ record. “There is no escape to what has come before” is my favourite lyric. Classical folk and pop sensibilities are effortlessly combined. The layered harmonies sung over the strings has colourful shades of Robin Pecknold’s Fleet Foxes. The album closer ‘The Land’ highlights the album’s sonic diversity. Here, drone of hypnotic guitar and drums creates slowly menacing indie-rock grandeur. ‘The Land’ is an anthem straight from the Iron and Wine songbook. “Outcast, drawn to the margins” draws a picture steeped in vivid reality. ‘Citizens’ is just that; an album of affecting folk pop creations for the here and now.
‘Citizens’ is out now on Out On A Limb Records.