Album Review: Lysandre by Christopher Owens
Christopher Owens (previously of the band Girls) recently released his debut solo album, Lysandre. It’s an eleven song narrative of his first time on tour and the French girl with whom he fell in love (can you guess her name?).
The album opens with Lysandre’s Theme, a purely instrumental track with a strange, medieval vibe. Quickly, though, Here We Go transports you right into Owens’ familiar, subdued voice. He quite clearly reaches out to his listeners, singing, “aeroplane take us all away to New York City” and “you will find fellowship with me” (on a side note, every time I listen to this song, the word “fellowship” catches me as oddly religious, especially considering that Owens spent his early years involved with the Children of God).
New York City is perhaps the most up beat song on the album, with the trumpet in the background giving it a jazzy vibe, despite the grungy lyrics of being cut up with pocketknives. Much like the manic-depressive patterning of Father, Son, Holy Ghost (2011), Owens then offers up the aptly titled A Broken Heart. Lyrics simple, they’re all the sadder, Owens singing “yeah I wish it never happened to us, you fell in love with that girl / and I wish it wasn’t true, but all you cared about was the girl.”
Back to the manic side of things with the ooh-la-la’s of Here We Go Again, with the best break up advice you can get: “got to keep on moving, got to keep on loving,” and containing that San Francisco energy that defined much of Album (2009). Then we’re back on the aeroplane, the track going so far as to splice in a recording of the safety announcements you’d hear before takeoff. Riviera Rock follows, consisting of the title being sung out over and over by a chorus of girls along with the familiar jazzy undertones. It’s a weird mix—the girls’ voices so faint they’re slightly haunting—but it works, though not perfectly.
Owens seems to recognize the faults of Lysandre, going so far as to sing out his anxieties in Love is in the Ear of the Listener; he worries about trite song writing and show goers rolling their eyes at him, tired of love songs. The song (ironically?) comes across as repetitious, not surprising that it spends nearly two and a half minutes punning on a cliché.
Though Lysandre and Closing Theme fall flat, Part of Me (Lysandre’s Epilogue) offers a nice, narratorial conclusion to the album, while Everywhere You Knew is quiet, simple, and sad (I.e. Owens at his best) as he sings, “And then we laid in the park till the sun came up / it felt so good we couldn’t do it enough.” It’s full of nostalgia and regret, and could easily go on for longer than just 2.17 minutes.
Compared to songs like Honey Bunny, Vomit, or Hellhole Racetrack, Owens’ latest effort just doesn’t measure up. But it’s not supposed to be listened to in relation to his earlier work, really; if you take a look at the setlists from his 2013 tour, he’s been strictly avoiding any Girls songs, instead filling up his set time with covers. I’d probably love Lysandre a little more if I hadn’t heard anything from Album or Father, Son, Holy Ghost, though I still like it enough to have added christopherowensonline.com to my bookmarks, where you can stream the entire album for free.