Owen - The King of Whys (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


The King of Whys (2016)


For everything Mike Kinsella's done with American Football, I'll be grateful until the end of time. Here's hoping all their Facebook teasing means a new record. But as the stain of "Never Meant" remains unfaded on an emo addict such as myself, Kinsella thoroughly found ways of telling his stories. Owen, his solo project, is the main outlet but he's been just as ambitious on Owls as well as Their / They’re / There with Into It. Over It's Evan Weiss. Getting into Cap'n Jazz threw me into the rest of this music and it's a journey I've never regretted. The King of Whys is particularly striking because it's Kinsella writing with more depth than I've ever experienced with him. In fact, while a lot of tracks run acoustically the same, he keeps you hooked with his most comprehensive stories to date. Sure, he's older and not really diving into teen angst anymore but at its core, it's still an album about friendship, love, relationships and family. While everything sounds so different, in that aspect, not much has changed.

The opening track "Empty Bottle" paints a haunting picture and sets the tempo for what's to come. Painful assessments of life and sentiment that'll tear your heart out. It's a cold, strumming shot in the dark that addresses the pressures of what life brings. Kinsella's clearly broadened his horizon with age and you get an even bigger feel for this on "Burning Soul". This definitely would have killed it on college radio in the '90s. Heartfelt and one of his best acoustics to date. I love how by then the theme of fatherhood ends up most prominent. I've always loved hearing his perspective on this. Later, we dig into "Settled Down" which best represents how this album's framed. Minimal guitars driven by tight percussion. You can sense how secluded he was in recording this with quite an interesting array of musicians. Bon Iver fans should note how S. Carey treats the production with tender care. "Sleep is a Myth" kicks off the finale and this, in its dreamy haze, is another beautiful gem on tap. Perfect to bookend another amazing diary. While the middle of the record does drop into very boring territory, if you're a fanboy I think you'll stick through. May have just been two or three tracks too long but in the end, The King of Whys addresses a lot of things that we can relate to.