As the weather shifts and Portland becomes a miserable landscape of wet puddles, it's time to adjust your musical soundtrack. Say good-bye to the summer jams—the Girl Talk and the Gnarls—and welcome in Owen, your new best pal for these blistery winter months. This Kinsella (Mike, one of three Kinsellas that make up the art post-punk collectives Joan of Arc and Make Believe, the most notable being older brother Tim) has made the rounds under the Owen moniker for a few years now, but it's only recently with his At Home with Owen album (which came out last week) that he perfected his hushed sound.
For a singer/songwriter—and I hate to use that term since it's one which has been forever stained by both the likes of Dashboard Confessional and coffeehouse open mics—Kinsella adds a boundless creativity to his whispered vocals and (at times) smoldering anger, which is similar to this town's prodigal son, Elliott Smith. But don't take my word for it; Kinsella does a much better job describing his music on his MySpace page under the "Sounds Like" category: "(Sounds Like) I recorded a bunch of songs at my mom's house at 2 am. While she was sleeping."
At Home wastes no time with an opening line of "Whatever it is you think you are, you aren't," delivered from Kinsella to his alter ego's id. The record is remarkably sincere, and charismatically self-deprecating, all without containing the usual narcissism and drama of solo artists. Owen is a singer in passing, someone who creates music that grows close to you, but without hijacking your life, which makes it a perfect fit for staring out the rain-streaked windows as another Portland winter trudges on by.
Most Owen shows here in town have him supporting well-known emo bands on national tours, all of which seem to result in his polite sets being talked over by a generation of kids with bad haircuts and poor musical taste. But pay attention when he plays, because you might as well fall for Owen soon, since this winter and the goddamn rain aren't going to let up anytime soon.
Owen performs at the Hawthorne Theatre on Sat Nov 18