Thanks to his involvement with extremely successful projects like American Football, Joan of Arc, and Cap’n Jazz you may think you know who Mike Kinsella is. However, to really get to know Mike Kinsella, you first need to get to know Owen.

In an effort to circumvent the preconceptions tethered to being a solo singer-songwriter, Kinsella began recording under the pseudonym Owen, releasing his self-titled debut in 2001. Though many saw the album as a logical, almost predictable continuation of where American Football left off, Owen was wholly a solo effort, as Kinsella performed, recorded, and mixed the entire work in his home studio. Sonically speaking, Owen was not a vast departure from American Football, but the work was a clear signifier that when given complete artistic control, Kinsella had the ability to create some notable music.

Over the next decade, Owen released five more LPs, each album sounding progressively more mature, developed, and self-realized, his efforts ultimately culminating in Ghost Town.  

Written in the wake of his daughter’s birth, Ghost Town is a story of self-reflection and a sonic account of Kinsella attempting to cope with the deep-rooted, often painful ghosts of his past: specifically, the death of his father, with whom he had a volatile relationship.

Produced by Brian Deck (Iron and Wine) and Neil Strauch (Bonnie "Prince" Billy) the release is everything you’d expect out of an album titled Ghost Town. It’s beautifully haunting, extremely emotive, and deeply personal. The production is pleasantly reflective of Owen’s past work; many of the tracks on the album (including "Too Many Moons" and "Mother’s Milk Breath") still have that raw acoustic sound mixed with rich string arrangements.

However, it's important to note that although Ghost Town carries many of the same components found in past Owen albums, this collection of tracks marks a more forceful and varied instrumental style replete with aggressive elements that were mostly absent from Kinsella’s earlier work. Most notably, album closer "Everyone’s Asleep in the House But Me" ends with a seriously forceful electric guitar solo that is all but Owen-esque, reminding the listener that yes, Kinsella does own an amp and distortion peddle and no, he is not afraid to use them.

Though musically the album is a slight departure from what long-time fans may be used to, the lyrical imagery throughout Ghost Town is spot-on Owen, arguably his best writing to date. Early in the record you're plunged into the painful world of Kinsella’s regret, emerging steeped in sorrow at the album's close.  

On "No Place Like Home" Kinsella sings "We leave at dusk/ With only that with which we can carry/ Whatever is left gets burned or buried/ For if by chance we return/ I’ll leave a note/ To whom it may concern/ Fuck you and your front lawn/ I’d rather die with my hands tied and holding a gun/ There’s no place like home for collecting burdens."

Motifs of unresolved anger and compunction are prominent throughout Ghost Town, culminating in "No Language"'s confession, "I guess I’m still angry/ Punching walls that look like you."

Ultimately, Ghost Town is an outstanding work. Long-time Owen fans will appreciate a new release, while those who found his past full-lengths somewhat monotonous are sure to enjoy the new-found attitude the instrumentation on Ghost Town lends. However, what really makes this album outstanding is the profound sincerity that Kinsella puts into his music.

As samples, beats, patches, and plug-ins increasingly dominate today’s modern scene, it's becoming exponentially more difficult to truly connect with an artist through their music. This is not so with Owen. The candor intricately laced throughout Ghost Town is truly a rarity in a music industry that celebrates personas rather than people.

To really get to know Mike Kinsella, all you have to do is listen.