William Patrick Owen | First Person Singular Album Review
William Patrick Owen's debut concept album is less an accomplished work and more a showcase of exciting promise. First Person Singular displays grand song arrangement and a homely touch on contemporary folk, but only scratches the surface of Owen's thoughts.
First Person Singular is undeniably the work of a poet. Looking at some of the song titles ('Lilac Thunder', 'Cliches And Idioms' and 'Velvet Petals'), it is clear that imagery and exaggerated description is rife.
The biggest question to ask is, 'Who does William Patrick Owen want to be?' First Person Singular seems completely torn between the thoughts and feelings of a troubled yet optimistic wordsmith and a defeated fatalist confined to his bedroom. The record is convincing in its approach, as long as it is intended to be harrowing, and not dreamy.
Although the significant lack of production makes for an amateur result, it does cement the idea of the reflective singer/songwriter, securing the listener in Owen's grey bedroom hearing cars whizz by as he delivers poetic observations, especially evident in some tracks like 'Dionysus And Apollo', where the intro and outro hold the airy notion of chatter by a foggy window.
Some of the tracks are live recordings, which, while irritating at first, generate a sense of humbleness - on 'Ribbon Around A Bomb', the giggles and muttering of the crowd as Owen (seemingly ignored) quietly prepares for the next song really drives home his modest roots. Without breaking up the feel of the album, these live snippets add to the journey in becoming a commendable musician between retreating to familiar coffee-stained desks.
Owen's voice seems to get better throughout the record with noticeable highlights, particularly about halfway through 'Velvet Petals', but he will need to work on vocals some more. Bob Dylan wasn't exactly an amazing singer either, and he's perhaps the greatest, so a little tweaking around the high notes and ensuring that holding lower notes does not sound droning could work wonders. An ear for setting appropriateness could work too: 'Ribbon Around A Bomb' shows off confident delivery despite the live environment, and although this is a nice touch, having a harrowing, vocal-focused studio version could have proved magnificent.
Despite signs of promise in vocal delivery and song arrangement, the guitar always feels out of balance, which could again be attributed to the raw aura of the record, as if it's 'the point' of it. But, at this stage, it is evident that a warmer production would cement the dreamy sound that Owen desires.
Poetry is strong within First Person Singular - the song titles are great and the lyricism is great. There does exist oddly abundant profanity in 'Settle Down' - "I am the anus of Jesus, I am the cock of Christ", though Owen's poetry is robust enough throughout to form the loose concept to build the album. Most of the songs exceed the five-minute mark, which further allows First Person Singular as a concept to take shape.
All the passion and ideas are here to make Owen a great contemporary songwriter like Ben Howard or Tom Odell, but he will need to roll his sleeves up on production and keenly focus his conceptual energy to create something remarkably centred on an idea. For decades, poets and singers alike have pushed their thoughts and feelings into music, inspiring many. While it is maybe not his time now, Owen certainly has what it takes to have his unique story appreciated in the future.