Christopher Owens ‘Lysandre' (Fat Possum/Turnstile)
Girls, the San Francisco power-pop band led by Christopher Owens, enjoyed a brief but charmed existence and released two great collections, 2009's “Album” and 2011's “Father, Son, Holy Ghost,” before its surprise breakup in July 2012. Both albums were packed with earworm melodies, wry lyrics and powerful guitar work, which makes the light placidity of Owens' solo debut, “Lysandre,” a deep disappointment.
“Lysandre,” a song cycle about the end of a relationship, is filled with pastoral folk-rock, with flutes abounding on “Here We Go,” “A Broken Heart” and the title track. It feels like a bid for sensitive seriousness of the Nick Drake variety, but one of Girls' great charms was the dichotomy between Owens' soft-around-the-edges vocals and the instrumental power behind him. Now, without the visceral strength of the other Girls, Owens sounds wan and faded. On “Lysandre,” even faster-paced fare such as “New York City” and “Here We Go Again” lack the dynamic punch of Owens' former band.
Even with its relative brevity — the album clocks in at about 30 minutes — “Lysandre” feels unnecessarily padded, complete with an instrumental exercise in lounge-quality saxophone tropicalia (“Riviera Rock”) that is downright embarrassing. Owens can still write great melodies, but “Lysandre” never summons enough substance or strength to make more than a passing, pleasant impression.
— George Lang