Remember that Ice Bucket challenge thing? Imagine someone doing it for hipster lols, adding a knowing twist to every element and effectively retaining the spirit, but with a decidedly snide swipe. That’s a little bit what Christopher Owens‘ new album feels like, and not just from that overblown cover.
We could be wrong, of course. But there’s something about A New Testament that feels like a musical side-glance from Owens – of course, there’s a genuine affection for country and Americana here, but the tropes are executed with so much exaggeration that it feels about as sincere as the smirk on the album sleeve. We’re talking the organ on My Troubled Heart to begin with, and that full-blown praise-Jesus gospel choir going to town on Stephen.
It also might be something to do with Owens’ lo-fi, wispy vocal being an odd match for the huge arrangements around it. At some point in almost every song, he’s drowned out by a gospel choir; not a bad thing, really, but he does feel more at home on a looser acoustic track like Nobody’s Business.
There are moments when Owens lets his songwriting do the talking, such as It Comes Back To You. Even then, is the former Girls frontman really giving us a full-blown radio-rock crescendo, or giving us a Nashville twang at the start of A Heart Akin to the Wind? There’s a fine line between tribute and trolling, and it’s bloody difficult to tell which side Owens favours on this one.