Footnotes: Christopher Owens

Photographer Justin Maxon
November 28, 2012

Footnotes is the section in our magazine where we take a deeper look at the music surrounding our feature artists. Read Caroline McCloskey’s FADER #83 cover feature on Christopher Owens, and check out our notes below.

Girls, “I Will Always Love You” (Whitney Houston cover) (Internet 2012)
Owens’ everyman pop charm partly derives from how relatable he can be—writing gooey heartbreak songs, adoring Miley Cyrus, talking lovingly about his stamp collection or, overcome with grief, tweeting sadly when Whitney Houston dies. A day after her passing, someone posted a video of Girls covering “I Will Always Love You” onstage in Singapore, Owens’ neck a tense wreck as he stretches and fails to hit her high notes. That Houston’s most famous song is so sentimental but still affecting is precisely the point—schmaltz matters in music. Owens knows this, and so do the hundreds of fans in the Singapore crowd, shouting and crying along with him. AF

Paul Simon, Graceland (Warner Bros. 1986)
I don’t think it would be far off to call Girls a modern day Simon & Garfunkel. If Christopher Owens is our Paul Simon, I wondered, would Lysandre be his Graceland? That was not to be the case: Owens takes inspiration more from the renaissance fair than from African guitar. More often, Lysandre reminds me of the Scottish folk band Pentangle. Maybe Owens is that band’s frontman Bert Jansch—less popular than Paul Simon, but surely deeper and stranger. Still, the most ebullient moments of Lysandre are my favorites, because though I respect intricacy and deepness, mostly I just want to call you Al. MS

Girls, “Substance” Broken Dreams Club (True Panther Sounds 2010) 
Christopher Owens redoubles the lyrical entendre of “Substance” by swaddling a tale of drug abuse in a blanket of sunny rock and bounding bass—something to take off the corners and help you rock and roll, so to speak. It’s a testament to Owens’ writerly gift of irony, too. The song’s plain-spoken pusher vibe and promise of mindlessness is so elegantly executed and substantive that a subject as complex as addiction feels as easy as an opiate fix. People pick their poisons—for some it’s a little something to “help them rock and roll” and for others, it’s just good old rock and roll like this. AB

Footnotes: Christopher Owens