Owen; Anthem Magazine

Last week, myself and Seth Holton escaped the Seattle rain by perusing a record store called Sonic Boom. We weren’t shopping, just drying off really, when I picked up the Nov./Dec. issue of Anthem Magazine. Skimmed the first section in the shop, and lo and behold, found a write up on Mike Kinsella of Owen that I did a while back, but forgot about. Don’t ask how, it was a busy few months there for a while. Anyway, it’s available to buy here: http://www.lastgasp.com/d/30215/ or you can find the magazine online here: www.anthem-magazine.com
But since I’m probably not going to make any believers out of anyone reading this, I figured that a reprint wouldn’t be too unjust. So here goes.

Normally, musicians don’t cite “beach towel and flip flops” when asked about their musical gear, but given the tempered, calm after the storm vibe of Michael Kinsella’s (the singer/song writer behind the musical guise Owen) extensive back catalog, the reference doesn’t seem very far-fetched. Following a traumatic year of ups, downs and side to sides, Michael Kinsella and Owen are on a proverbial vacation, beach towel and flip flops included.

Prior to Owen’s first releases, Kinsella acted as principal song writer in the atypical Midwest post-emo outfit known as American Football. The band released one EP and one endearingly classic LP on Polyvinyl Records before disbanding, leaving Kinsella alone in his bedroom, pondering drunken missteps, caustic relationships and life’s intricacies from behind an acoustic guitar. Kinsella as Owen retreated to his boyhood bedroom in suburban Chicago for the better part of three full-length albums and one EP, examining failed relationships, painting desolately graceful melodies and utilizing his recording budget to purchase new microphones along the way. In between bouts of Owen, Kinsella moderated his time as a contributor to his brother Tim’s eclectic musical nature, including drumming in the short-lived Jade Tree outfit Owls, and playing whatever was necessary and/or expected of him in the many different episodes of Polyvinyl Record’s Joan of Arc.

This fall, Kinsella as Owen returns with his fourth full-length album, aptly titled ‘At Home With.’ The album marks a bit of a departure for Kinsella’s song writing and recording. What was once a bedroom project has expanded into the recording studio, and what was once poetic analysis of failed relationships has now become a celebration of love, life and being ‘At Home With’ one’s self. In simpler terms, Kinsella got engaged, endured the death of his father and subscribed to cable television during the writing and recording process of ‘At Home With.’ Life as a confused 20-something suddenly vanished, and it was replaced with true love, mortality and an appreciation for “The space in my head that used to be filled with girls and the ensuing drama,” says Kinsella. ‘At Home With’ is Kinsella’s grace note; a point of forgiveness, understanding and resolution at the start of an unknown chapter in life. Beach towel and flips flops included.

BMX rant

It took me a few months to figure out what was bothering me about the BMX scene, but I think I pinpointed it. It’s gangsta BMX, and the urban “street culture” that’s equated with a certain style of bike riding and a certain style of dress.

I can’t stand flat-brimmed New Era baseball hats. I have better things in life to worry about than the newest color combo of Nike Dunks, and I think there’s a fair bit more to getting paid for riding bikes than doing barspin bunnyhops on banks. The whole shebang screams “Vanity!” to me. The fresh clothes, the sparkling bikes, the need to take photos and gather footage each time a riding excursion is undertaken. I don’t care how stylish you look while you’re pedaling in between curb tricks and grinds that Ralph Sinisi did ten years ago. Start racing BMX if you think you need to show the world how great you can pedal on YouTube.

I could go a lot deeper into this. I almost did actually. But it’s not even worth delving into. It’s all unoriginal and it will all go away in six months anyway. It’s inevitable, but it feels like BMX is becoming more image-based by the day, and that’s a scary thing.