As the title suggests, Mike Kinsella's newest contribution under the Owen moniker is a bit of a departure both musically and thematically. Recorded over the course of two years, New Leaves, which is being released September 22 on Polyvinyl Records, enlists the expertise of multiple engineers such as Tim Iseler (Wilco), Brian Deck (Iron & Wine), and Graeme Gibson (Califone), whereas previous releases were primarily recorded in a makeshift studio in the home of Kinsella's mother. Musically, the arrangements on New Leaves are more elaborate. Kinsella's finger-picked riffs are as pretty as ever, and new layers of sounds add further nuance to the tracks. While New Leaves still exhibits Kinsella's penchant for self-deprecation, there's a newfound focus on clean slates and new beginnings.
The now-married Kinsella has veered away from his previous preoccupation with failed relationships. On "Never Been Born," Kinsella sings "These old bones don't feel so old when I'm home with you." "Amnesia And Me" finds Kinsella further musing on his recent domestication: "Now I know who I am, a housebroken one-woman man." It's surely unfamiliar territory for Kinsella, but that's not to say there's a shortage of sardonic wit and self-examination on New Leaves. Kinsella sounds fed up on "Curtain Call." He confesses: "People used to pay to watch me sing and play/ But it seems more and more they come to spit in my face/ I'm tired of speaking up and speaking clearly so the idiots in the back can hear me." While Kinsella seems burdened by the rigors of touring, he finally seems content with his personal life. Past releases felt like a glimpse into the dark rooms of Kinsella's psyche, where New Leaves finds those same rooms a little brighter, as if someone tied back the curtains and cracked the windows, making way for some fresh air and sunlight.