Christopher Owens' decision to ditch/disband Girls came as a surprise, since many viewed the group as his personal creative vehicle in the first place. But as solo records tend to do, Lysandre exposes the dichotomy in writing styles between the singer/guitarist and J.R. White, Girls' only other constant member. It appears White was the force chiselling Owens' ideas into lean slabs of indie rock. Freed from the confines of his old band's sound, Lysandre is Owens' most expansive work yet, featuring flute, saxophone, classical guitar and lyrics detailing a failed romance and tales from Girls' first big U.S. tour. Owens is as plain as ever and never minces words, whether celebrating newfound love or wallowing in creative self-doubt. Enjoyment, however, will depend on the listener's ability to work past the Renaissance fair rip-off motif introduced on album opener "Lysandre's Theme," which Owens insists on weaving into each song, usually tacking it on at the end. Yet even some slight diversions into the Paul Simon/Jackson Browne-style dad rock near the record's end are saved by the singer's unwavering commitment to the material and ability to pull sticky hooks out of thin air. As a solo debut, Lysandre is a self-indulgent effort that succeeds in spite of itself; it also signals an artist shaking off the shackles of the past and embracing a wider range of sounds and ideas.
Read our March 2013 Christopher Owens feature here. (Fat Possum)