William Patrick Owen’s ‘first person singular’ album is hard to write an introduction for. Like much music, it speaks for itself much better than I could for it. Owen’s album is experimental, it’s new, individual and a little bit weird.
Owen’s 10 track record uses Lots of real sounds, cacophonies of people covered with strums of various strings. It’s like listening to the world rather than music, it’s like watching a movie with your eyes closed. It’s almost genreless, it’s strange, but pleasing. ‘out of step’ feels like something you’d listen to in the Tate Modern in London or the MOMA in NYC. It’s about three minutes in until we hear Owen’s voice and the cacophony dies down. It’s mood setting music, music to work to and music to feel something to. Would this ever achieve mainstream success? No way. Is this aiming to? Not at all. It’s music being made for the artist.
The best part of the album is the vision that goes into each track. They’re strange and insular, each track feels like it’s own little world and you’re picturing environments from the instrumentals alone. That’s where ‘first person singular’ shines- in it’s incredible backing tracks. It almost feels like the instrumentals alone could be an album.
That’s not to discredit Owen’s lyrics or vocals, they’re both extremely important and he has a soft and soothing voice, almost like Dave Bayley of Glass Animals in ‘Gooey’. As you may have inferred from the title of the album, ‘first person singular’, the entire album is sang in first person. Owen states that he isn’t exactly sure who he’s singing to. This uncertainty provides flexibility and gives the album that experimental sound and leaves us as listeners to create our own universe for each track.
‘velvet petals’ is one of the standout tracks, the use of strings, which in truth, the similar sounding strings may be just a tad overused in this record, is particularly powerful here. ribbon around a bomb is less cinematic and more chill, Owen is capable of a lot and he’s doing his best to show it.
However, almost every track features extremely loud acoustics. In some tracks, the vocals and other backings are almost washed out because of this. In others (like ‘homme fatale’ and the title track) the levels seem much more balanced. The imbalance can cause some tracks to be a bit hard to listen to, you shouldn’t be straining to make out vocals that are just *too* quiet. Maybe it’s an issue in production, and I hope that Owens has the chance to adjust these in the future to create a more fluid and better listening experience.
If it’s an intentional choice, it’s risky and unique- we need more risks in the music world, we can never get enough of them.
‘first person singular’ won’t be for everyone and that’s okay. ‘first person singular’ is more a collection of art to be enjoyed in an audio format than it is your everyday album. It’s tracks hitting out at over seven minutes in length, tracks built around the sounds of people, not always instruments. Listening to this record is a bit of an experience, and that’s really what we want from the music we give our time to.