Christopher Owens may be the most interesting man in music. His troubled upbringing has been the topic of countless interviews and his rise to musical prominence has been entirely unique. When listening to his music, it's clear that Owens has been through some stuff that you or I will luckily never have to deal with: stuff that makes him sing about being held up by his best friend with a pocket knife with the same level of urgency as he does about buying a pack of cigarettes. But the power of Christopher Owens comes in the fact that despite the inherent distance between musician and listener, he always resonants on an extremely intimate level.
That intimacy is one of the reasons he decided to quit his band, Girls, and go solo on his new record, Lysandre, as he wanted to be able to move forward personally. This solo debut recounts the story of his first tour with Girls, eventually leading to a romantic fling with a French girl named, you guessed it, Lysandre. If that sounds like a fairly typical coming-of-age framework, it's because, well, it is. Owens has been coming of age for three records now, as he continues his ventures into the "real world." This tale of growing up and going forth into the unknown is as poignant as Owens' previous work with girls, mainly because it doesn't deal to frequently with the more unbelievable.
On Lysandre, Owens tells a fairly exciting tale, but never makes excitement the main theme. Everything boils down to a few basic emotions, which in turn boil down into love. He manages to make his unique tale relatable and universal, while still being a very specific snapshot of time. And despite the tragedy he has faced, he always keeps an unbelievably cool head (or tongue). He's one part intimacy and one part mystery, stirred, but not shaken.
Lysandre is his first solo record, and while that does mean a lot, you would be hard pressed to recognize that fact if you listened to it thinking it was another Girls album. Like in his previous work, Owens draws huge inspiration from classic rock and composes tunes that could've been written forty years ago. This time around the references are even more pronounced, and when "Here we Go Again" ends with a plane departure and "Riviera Rock" opens with beach noises, it sounds like Owens is nudging us on, waiting for comparisons to Roger Waters or Pete Townshend.
Lysandre does bring plenty new to the table, though. Much like its subject matter, its music can in essence be boiled down to one theme, "Lysandre's Theme," that opens the album. This short motif makes it way into every song, and connects the album as a whole. It's a little touch, but it really ties everything together, and I dare you not to enjoy how deliciously cheesy "Riviera Rock," which is a mid-album jazz take on the theme that proves for the millionth time that Owens has turned musical cheese into a legitimate art form, exposing its truth and power in light of our constant dismissal of it.
If there is one thing about Lysandre to be disappointed with, it's the album's length. It runs a mere 28 minutes, and it seems justified to feel a little ripped off over such a short effort. But, the length does work in Lysandre's favor. There are no long tracks or extended solos; much like the album's inspiration, it moves at a breakneck pace, which each song working as a brief rest stop on a disorienting tour. It really captures this inundated feeling, and makes the songs that are actually about the titlular love seem that much more important.
You know how it's usually awful to hear friends' vacation stories? Either they're boring and not relatable or just plain unbelievable. Well that's far from the case with Lysandre. This travel log is a beautiful one, and instead of a slide show it acts as an late-night, intimate conversation with a friend, telling you a story to explain why he is the way he is. It's a reflection of life and how the events we usually watch happen to us really affect us as people. It's self-aware and self-complete. Another love letter from Christopher Owens. Here's hoping there will be many more to come.