Owen: The Avalanche (Polyvinyl) - Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, December 5th, 2020  


The Avalanche


Jun 23, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

From American Football to Cap ‘N’ Jazz, Mike Kinsella’s songs all carry recognizable qualities, but it’s Kinsella’s solo recordings under the Owen moniker that are always his most painful and personal. As before, Kinsella aims for introspection and confession on Owen records but The Avalanche, Kinsella’s tenth Owen album, is his most direct, refined, and one of the best (if not the best) album in the wide Owen discography. The Avalanche’s closest relative is American Football’s superb 2019 LP, III, doused equally with Kinsella’s strongest songwriting, his most memorable melodies, and his usual clear-eyed, heartbreaking lyrics about divorce, therapy, listlessness, and an inescapable hope for the future. 

Recorded at Hive Studios in Eau Claire, Wisconsin (Bon Iver territory) with producer Sean Carey, The Avalanche plays to Kinsella’s strengths as a musician while also filling out the darkened corners. Kinsella’s mournful acoustic guitar is still at the center of the record, but this time it’s surrounded by pedal steel (“I Go, Ego”), strings (“The Contours,” “I Should’ve Known”), horns (“Wanting and Willing”), and a few surprise inclusions such as a music box and synth noises (“Dead for Days,” “Headphoned”). “Been comfortably cursed/almost blessed to sleep,” Kinsella sings on the apologetic album opener, “A New Muse.” If he’s gotten too comfortable in his routines, then The Avalanche has him shaking the dust off the sheets with the strongest set of songs in a decade.

“On With the Show” is upbeat and stalwart in its exploration of futility, “Wanting and Willing” is classic Kinsella with lyrics of shining desperation and resignation, and “Mom and Dead” is elevated by the inclusion of a piercing and necessary female voice, this time from KC Dalager of Now, Now. “A New Muse” and “Dead for Days” are the strongest one-two punch from any Kinsella project but overall of The Avalanche is gorgeously rendered for days’ or weeks’ worth of isolated listening. Kinsella knows, it seems, that a bloodied and beaten heart is sometimes the best reminder of our own impermanence. With its non-stop fragility and intense vulnerability, The Avalanche demonstrates that no one wrings desperation from an acoustic guitar quite like Mike Kinsella. (www.owenmusic.com)

Author rating: 8/10

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