Review: Inner Song – Kelly Lee Owens

Blending minimalist house and indie vocal aesthetics, “Inner Song” is a solid follow-up to Kelly Lee Owens’ 2017 self-titled debut record.

By Gavin Majeski

 

With a solo music career that started only half a decade ago, the Welsh electronic producer and vocalist has made waves by receiving critical praise for her debut album and EP. Both “Inner Song,” her 2016 EP, “Oleic” and her self titled full-length project all share a similar blend of highly textured microhouse and dreamy, atmospheric vocals. 

While also falling under the category of “art pop,” Owens often avoids the mainstream pop structure of chorus, hook, chorus, repeat. Instead, she chooses to use her vocals as a padding on trance-like instrumentals that feature lush textures, chopped vocal samples and manipulated synths.

“Inner Song” does a great job sticking with Owens’ repertoire of having a healthy balance of purely instrumental tracks and ones that feature vocals. Four out of the 10 songs on the record are pure instrumentals, and all are more than capable of standing on their own without the need of vocal accompaniment.

“Arpeggi” is a great tone setter for the album, with a slow instrumental build featuring futuristic synth lines layered over odd drum patterns and a speed up during the last third of the track. “Melt!” was one of the singles leading into the record, and while on its own stood out, in placement within the track listing its repetitive drum pattern becomes slightly tedious by the end of the song.

By far the best song on the record and also a pure instrumental track is “Jeanette,” the closest we get to a banger, with its driving grooves, warped synth lines and heart pumping kick drums. The last of the instrumentals is “Flow,” which features an excellent transition during the halfway point of the song. At this halfway point we are treated with a thin, yet bassy background drone, filtered kick drums and light high hats that play over the synth line that was established at the start of the track.

When looking at the songs accompanied with vocals, Owens excels through the principle of “less is more,” as seen by “Night” and “On.” “Night” features two very important lyrical lines, “It feels so good to be in love,” and, “with you.” How Owens executes the track perfectly is by creating a slow build up with, “It feels so good to be in love” repeated until we reach the instrumental drop, and are thus greeted with driving synths and the lyrics, “With you.”

Sadly, the record falters on the vocal end of things after the only true standout performance seen with “On.” The track contains the only example of a solid falsetto from Owens and opts for a gorgeously textured second half of the track that forgoes any vocals.

The breathy performance on “Re-Wild” and mediocre falsetto on “L.I.N.E.” and “Wake-Up” in combination with instrumentals that feel less engaging creates a sour note to a degree. Owens does bounce back by having a solid lyrical concept with “L.I.N.E.,” that discusses being more in love with the potential of creating a significant relationship instead of the person themselves.

The only vocal feature we receive on “Inner Song” is from John Cale of Velvet Underground fame. On paper, the combination sounds intriguing, while in practice it fails miserably with the cut, “Corner Of My Sky,” which sticks out in the worst way possible. Not only are the spoken word-esque vocals unbearable, but the instrumental lacks any thematic consistency and even features heavy 808 drums that feel like they came straight out of the Gorillaz song, “The Joplin Spider.”

While “Corner Of My Sky” and some mediocre vocal performances are the clear blemishes on “Inner Song,” the vast majority of tracks continue to build upon Owens’ blend of microhouse and art pop, creating an even more impressive catalogue.

Favorite Tracks: Arpeggi, On, Melt!, Jeanette, Night, Flow

 

7/10

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