CHRISTOPHER OWENS plays the Virgin Mobile Mod Club on January 18. See listing. Rating: NNN
"What if I'm just a bad songwriter?" former Girls frontman Christopher Owens ponders in a song unpacking his fondness for simplicity and sincerity, classic pop qualities some might consider cutesy and derivative.
"Love is in the ear of the listener," he says to those who do.
Inspired in part by a love affair, Owens's debut solo effort takes the sunnier aspects of Girls' acclaimed 2011 album, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, and runs with them through a tidy pastoral soundscape of woodland flute, jaunty indie pop riffs and groovy sax solos. It recalls the wistfulness of Belle and Sebastian's best, but not their wit or wordplay.
Owens, working with Girls producer Doug Boehm, ditches his old band's sprawling arrangements for a streamlined sound that beautifully draws attention to his unfussy songcraft. The results are sometimes sharp, as on mischievous New York City and Here We Go Again, with their mirrored melodies reinterpreted on flute and sax.
Other times, his lyrical directness relies on clichés - reminding us that love sometimes sounds quite ordinary.
Top track: New York City