"New York City," the third song on Christopher Owens' debut solo album "Lysandre," is kind of an opposite-universe version of Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side." It's a sax-soaked tale of turning tricks in the big city, but zips along a major-key melody with a mix of hope and devastation.
That blend has been the hallmark of Owens' writing since his time fronting the indie-rock band Girls. "Lysandre" isn't much of a departure But it does broaden the range and refine the writing that made him a troubadour of millennial drifters (and those who go to bed with them).
"Lysandre" starts with a Ren-Faire flute melody that suggests a joust with preciousness is to come. But then the record, which was allegedly written in one fevered day, skips off into Bill Withers acoustic ambience, Belle & Sebastian-style twee-pop and occasional nods to acid-casualty classic rock. There's some overly emo mulling on "Love Is in the Ear of the Listener," where Owens wonders "What if I'm just a bad songwriter?" He's not, but Conor Oberst does that sort of meta-self-criticism better.
Overall though, "Lysandre" is a fresh start for a writer with a fine ear for the way happiness and heartbreak intertwine.