As the singer and songwriter of the S.F. rock band Girls, Christopher Owens often seemed to teeter on the edge of an abyss. Songs like “Laura” and “Hellhole Ratrace” are propelled forward by their desperate yearning, by the sense that Owens is losing something he loves, heading toward something he hates, and only barely avoiding some lurking calamity.
The oft-told story of Owens' childhood in the Children of God cult contributed to the image of him as an alien on Planet Normal, barely remaining free of the troubled life from which he'd come. If it wasn't clear enough from the title of the group's 2010 EP — Broken Dreams Club — Girls' second and final album, 2012's lauded, sprawling Father, Son, Holy Ghost, found Owens grappling with own life yet again, from an attempt to reconcile his fraught relationship with his mother (“My Ma”) to the album's first single, a slab of maximalist, lovesick hard rock entitled “Vomit.”
But Owens ended Girls, the duo he founded with bassist and producer J.R. White, last year, for reasons that are still a bit murky. His first solo album, out today, sees the 33-year-old striking a remarkably different tone. Lysandre is the story of an ultimately ill-fated romance Owens pursued during Girls' first European tour in 2008 — but it's a sweet, rosy-eyed recounting, not a wounded one.