There's something to be said for Christopher Owens' irony-free approach to pop. The former Girls frontman is perfectly willing to let a riff or lyric skirt right alongside cliché without adding so much as a knowing wink. That stalwart earnestness seems to underpin the former his entire body of work, for better or worse.
Vante, the first volley from Owens' new trio Curls, which finds him backed by drummer Cody Rhode and bassist Luke Baće, offers songs in an unabashedly familiar vein, but hints at something new in its instrumentals. Opener "Dynamite" lets a rustic guitar line unfurl like the morning sun over some Midwestern ranch. Built on a wordless, tense give-and-take, it reveals a dynamic unlike that of Owens' previous releases, either with Girls or under his own name.
By comparison, "Emotion" and "Gentle and Kind" come across like fine but workmanlike Owens songs, charting innocent emotions in familiar lyrical hues, but instrumental "Golden Gate," the highlight here, swirls across the fretboard with a more complicated sense of whimsy and depth. It seems that the more Owens strips away words, the richer and more nuanced his music becomes. (Urban Scandal Records)