As is often the case with a Mike Kinsella album, the lyrics seem to be the driving force behind L’Ami du Peuple, and one of the most interesting aspects about the 36-year-old’s work is that one could make the argument that every new album of his is his most mature at the time of its release because he writes so personally and, as he gets older, he himself will naturally be more mature. With L’Ami du Peuple the Illinois-based singer-songwriter is back with his seventh studio album (under the Owen moniker alone), and it seems to continue this trend.
The album’s name translates to “The Friend of the People,” a title that Kinsella undoubtedly deserves as, aside from being an incredibly talented and influential songwriter, he never seems to be too different than anybody else. His work as Owen has pretty consistently addressed issues that are common to nearly everybody in one way or another (relationships, family problems, etc.), and while he has always approached his writing from a more personal sounding perspective, his most recent effort finds his experiences to be at their most universal.
These days, Kinsella doesn’t seem to worry about “free beer and basement shows,” but rather, the kinds of issues that arise with becoming a husband and a father. These are themes that he’s addressed on 2011’s Ghost Town, but now the honeymoon’s over and, as he suggests, “Love is not enough, / we need some money,” while every married couple nods their heads in agreement.
Owen’s “Coffin Companions”
This isn’t the only time that Kinsella “comes back to reality” (so to speak) on the album. In “Vivid Dreams,” the album’s final track, he asks “How long have I been sleeping?” right before stating very matter-of-factly, “I’m a dad and my dad’s dead.” Kinsella has always been good at boiling a situation down to its essence, and these two lines seem to explain how it feels to grow older more than adequately – you scarcely realize it’s even happening until you wake up and it’s done.
Aside from the moments on the album that are noticeably more aggressive than the rest of Kinsella’s output as a solo act like “Blues to Black” and “Bad Blood,” much of the music is rather similar to the kind of things he’s been doing. There is a ton of incredibly intricate acoustic guitar picking, which has generally been the mark of a classic Owen track, and the kind of thing that fans have come to expect from Kinsella.
That being said, the singer-songwriter’s decision to record in a studio helps make L’Ami du Peuple one of the more unique sounding albums of the Owen discography – the rest of his output does not deviate so drastically from the sound he has cultivated for himself like this one does so well. A prime example of some of the musical differences would be “A Fever,” which first appeared on The Seaside EP in 2009. The new version is basically the same song, but features a fuller arrangement in terms of its instrumentation and is a great addition to the album.
His personal lyrical style suggests that Kinsella will always have something new to write about as long as he keeps maturing, and if he can continue to keep the music as fresh as it is on this album, Owen has the potential to be an incredibly long-lasting project.
Written by Kevin Dunn
OurVinyl | Contributor