by Chris Familton
Christopher Owens surprised many when he announced the end of Girls and the start of his solo career. Though he was the central figure of that group, his synergistic musical partnership with producer/bassist JR White was integral to their success. On the other hand Owens’ intriguing back story and prolific songwriting has always suggested ambition and restlessness. Lysandre is a brief song cycle, based around a repeating musical motif, that documents a pivotal moment in time (summer, 2008) when life, love, travel and music collided for Owens.
Lysandre feels like a solo record in the context of the personal nature of the songs, the emphasis on Owens voice/lyrics and the recurring musical passage, first heard on opener Lysandre’s Theme. It appears in pretty much every song, re-coloured with different instruments, tempos and style. It fits the collective narrative of the songs but after a few listens to the album it starts to cloy and niggle, like subtle but annoying product placements in a movie. Owens has indulged in something of a prog/folk fantasy with flutes, light percussion and saxophone all taking lead melody lines and mostly they suit the songs, often conjuring up the same vibe as Destroyer’s Kaputt. The light and bouncy sax-driven New York City is a standout with its fine blend of clever and catchy. Of the overtly love-focused songs, A Broken Heart lingers the longest with its tearstained notes.
Generally Lysandre shows Owens is on the right track, even if the album sounds sonically weaker and thinner than the Girls records. There is a sense of him getting this particular set of songs out of his system before something more substantive but even as a stopgap this is a brave exercise in sensitive and creative song craft.
this review was first published on The Music and in The Drum Media.