As its title suggests, New Leaves is a new beginning for Mike Kinsella/Owen.
It was recorded over the course of two years by multiple engineers such as Tim Iseler (Wilco), Brian Deck (Iron and Wine), Graeme Gibson (Califone), Nate Kinsella (Joan of Arc, Birthmark), and, yes, some recording at mom’s house.
New Leaves retains elements of earlier Owen material -- but here, the arrangements are more elaborate, the song structures more complex, and the lyrics more refined.
Instead of lamenting failed relationships, Kinsella focuses on the new beginnings they allow.
Whether constantly questioning or dismissively venting, Kinsella's got a true and clever wit to compliment his writer's eye and musician's ear.
'Brown Hair in a Bird's Nest' lulls you to bed with plaintive, catchy melodies in that creepy way only Owen can conjure: beautifully and drowsily.
The Onion AV Club
Performed mostly by Kinsella, Owen’s soundtrack is pretty, dreamy, and poignant—Mark Kozelek-esque, perhaps—perfectly complementing the emotional tales...
The literary enthusiast in Kinsella spills his observational guts onto the masterful 'Good Friends, Bad Habits' complete with subtle electronics and interesting percussion.
There's something about Mike Kinsella's treatment of nostalgia, youthful dalliances and getting older that come off timeless. His brand of Chicago-style melodic indie rock hasn't spoiled with age and is as married to its place as no-bullshit D.C. punk, or anthemic New Jersey rock.
Musically, New Leaves is the best Owen record by a mile.
Pretend that sound is like a decent whiskey. With 'Good Friends, Bad Habits,' add some synthesizer and electric guitar in a way that doesn’t overpower the basic songwriting and it’s like a little water to fill it out—or bring out the flavor of this figurative whiskey.
1New Leaves (4:12)
2Good Friends, Bad Habits (3:54)
3A Trenchant Critique (2:48)
4Never Been Born (4:43)
5Amnesia and Me (3:41)
6Brown Hair in a Bird's Nest (4:30)
7Too Scared to Move (3:35)
8The Only Child of Aergia (4:06)
9Ugly on the Inside (2:56)
10Curtain Call (4:12)