In Lysandre, Christopher Owens wraps you in a warm cocoon of music; it’s an album to be listened to without doing anything else. It’s a story, and it deserves your attention as such – whilst standout tracks like ‘Here We Go Again’ will no doubt be played over and over again, this is an album that deserves to be listened to like you would read a book.
The album is explicitly a story about Lysandre, a French barmaid with whom Owens had an ultimately doomed relationship; implicitly
it also tells the story of Owen’s previous band, Girls.
With anything Owens now does, Girls are clearly the standard by which he will inevitably be judged. After two albums of sheer brilliance, the band’s split was followed at first by dismay, then intrigue as to what Owens would do next. Lysandre easily stands up to his previous work with Girls. It’s softer and more mellow but still inevitably quirky. The album has medieval resonances, harmonicas and saxophones somehow occupying the same space and working together. It does have slightly unnecessary moments that merely seem odd, such as the sound of an air hostess doing her safety talk before you hear a jet taking off. Although clearly symbolic, it’s unnecessary and spoils the mood of the album.
The great achievement of this album is not in its quirky moments or unusual instrument choices. Its achievement is its honesty. “What if I’m just a bad songwriter and everything I say has been said before?” asks Owens on ‘Love is in the Ear of the Listener’ but he should have no cause for concern.His own unconventional life and his willingness to draw on that in his songwriting mean that his songs are believable and take on that mysterious genuine quality that is often missing in music. This album is ‘different’ in a more refreshing way, it’s ‘post-cool’, returning to age-old musical influences to offer us all something clean and new.