Owen, the solo project of Mike Kinsella (American Football) has just announced his new album titled "The Falls of Sioux", Co-produced by Sean Carey (Bon Iver) and Zach Hanson (Bon Iver, Low, Waxahatchee) and out April 26th, 2024 on Polyvinyl Record Co. As the solo vehicle for the widely influential songwriting of Mike Kinsella (who’s prolific output includes roles along the way in American Football, Cap’n Jazz, LIES and other collaborative ventures), Owen has charted the evolution and sharpening of his craft with each new chapter. Along with today’s announcement we are also treated to the lead single and video for “Beaucoup” which can be streamed below. A song that exemplifies the ways in which Kinsella’s sound palette has been influenced heavily by his recent work with his cousin Nate in their boundary-pushing group LIES. Experimenting with the limits of electronic production inspired Kinsella to lean into sounds he hadn’t considered before when writing for Owen. On “Beaucoup”, acoustic guitar strums are slowly washed up against by a bedding of shoegaze texture, a deep synth bass sequence, and waves of noisy electronics.
Kinsella’s ability to seamlessly stitch jagged emotional currents into crushingly beautiful songs has remained at the forefront of his art. This contrast has become more distinct as Owen expanded from unassuming acoustic beginnings into more ornate production, reaching new levels of complexity and clarity by the release of 2020’s The Avalanche. The Falls of Sioux, Kinsella’s newest Owen full-length, levels up even further. As much as these nine songs represent a type of reinvention, they also feel like the natural next step in Kinsella’s growth, both artistic and personal. The album perforates an established sound to explore unlikely musical ideas, while the songs document a time of moving through life-altering turmoil into brighter days. Heavy themes are turned over with a gentle hand, and Kinsella inhabits the deeper perspectives that come with hard-earned life experience.
The Avalanche, his last LP, was an unbuffered exposition of some of Kinsella’s darkest days, laying bare the emotional fallout of his divorce along with several other gradients of grief and loss. Those days aren’t forgotten, but the pieces have been picked up on new LP The Falls of Sioux. Solidly on the other side of a painful chasm, moments of intensity now come across as confident and exploratory rather than tormented. The songs detail interpersonal situations that might have instilled panic and self-loathing in younger days, but now Kinsella meets them with a relaxed smirk.
As with the past few Owen albums, Kinsella worked with co-producers Sean Carey and Zach Hanson and also brought in Now, Now’s KC Dalager to contribute backing vocals. Russell Durham (Fleet Foxes, Andrew Bird) composed the string arrangements, Corey Bracken (from American Football’s touring band) played synths, and a few other friends stopped through to add upright bass, pedal steel, and various auxiliary contributions.
The open-ness of the music offers even Kinsella’s weariest lyrics an almost playful counterweighting, giving The Falls of Sioux a new positioning that hasn’t quite appeared before now in the Owen discography. It’s like watching a difficult winter melt into a nicer-than-expected spring, with the kind of distance from bad times that makes them easier to laugh at in retrospect. More than anything, the album is marked by a sense of self-acceptance that can be felt regardless of how cutting the one-liners or how melancholy the songs. Kinsella seems comfortable with himself and his craft in a way that only happens when artists round a certain corner on their creative path. On The Falls of Sioux, he’s unafraid to share any and all angles by which he might be viewed.