By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Don't know about you, but I'm personally counting the days till an emo star ends up on Oprah. At a small club gig in New York City a couple of weeks ago, Rainer Maria guitarist Kyle Fischer opened his set by thanking a dozen or so people (by name and occupation) who've made it possible for him to make Open Ground, his new solo album. Which in itself isn't a problem--last time I saw Mötley Crüe I remember thinking how wack it was that they didn't big-up the sound and light guys--but Fischer's little Oscar speech was such a perfect road map for those in the audience wondering where emo's gonna go now that it's perfected (or exhausted) the jumpy, wiry pop of bands like Fischer's: By the sound of Open Ground and Owen, the new, self-titled record from Cap'n Jazz/Joan of Arc/American Football/Owls guy Mike Kinsella's solo project, it's domesticity--music about quiet moments at home and the hushed interior monologues of musicians accustomed to thinking out loud.
Fischer, on record as in person an illuminator of this development, captures the feeling straightaway on "Headphones," Open Ground's appropriately insular opening number: "An evening's record listening's like divine communique/What I glean from those times, I can't find another way/I know I don't deserve it anyhow, but for the next few minutes/Let love come easy to me now." The music, mostly by Fischer, with the help of significant other/Rainer Maria mate Caithlin De Marrais, Kinsella and a couple of other Polyvinyl Records homies, is as quaint as the lyrics: lots of stringed instruments doing curlicues around one another and keyboards and pianos providing the warm hum of a fireplace in the background. Kinsella's work on the Owen record, a totally one-man show, is similarly cozy: On "Declaration of Incompetence" he laments through a lovely haze of those curlicues, "I can't do anything/I can't do my hair right/Or have a good time/Or fall asleep with my girl." Sure, it isn't exactly the Beatles investing their love songs with political heft or Public Enemy moving on from battle raps to cultural critique, but there's a movement afoot here, one that may impact young white guys more than you know. Show up and beat Ms. Winfrey to the punch.
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