Emo troubadour Mike Kinsella (best known for his work with bands like Cap’n Jazz and American Football) returns for the sixth installment of his solo project Owen with Ghost Town, a record that recalls the lyrical style of his earlier work as Owen while integrating new sonic elements into the mix. That is, where 2006’s At Home with Owen and 2009’s New Leaves took a more positive-minded perspective, reflecting on his then recent marriage and birth of his daughter, Ghost Town returns to his brooding roots, digging into the darker, more contemplative corners of his heart. And in contrast to his Owen past, Ghost Town introduces string instrumentation and folk-inspired arrangements on many of its tracks, immediately setting it apart from his previous solo efforts and lending a sound that’s fuller as well as more universal. Tracks like opener “Too Many Moons” and “The Armoire” ease in listeners, offering the fingerpicked acoustic guitar and plaintive lyricism that’s marked Owen records, giving way to lusher pieces like the ode to his daughter “O, Evelyn...” and “An Animal,” where Kinsella’s guitar plays cat-and-mouse with violin. But the biggest surprise of Ghost Town arrives with its closing track, “Everyone’s Asleep in the House But Me,” which wonders what to do while the rest of the world sleeps. It opens with a whisper, slowly growing with the addition of xylophone twinkles, hints of crackling guitar, and melancholic female backing vocals, and as the lyrics wrap with “But I’m killing time in a ghost town...This is what it’s like to be dead and leave behind more than a stain in the carpet,” a minute-long outro lets a fuzzy electric guitar roar, as restless as the sleep-deprived narrator. Kinsella’s tried-and-true delicately delivered cynicism combined with a new approach to instrumentation is refreshing after all these years.
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AllMusic Review by Chrysta Cherrie