Credit: Josie Hall
by Andrew Bosma Ledger Line Music

Kelly Lee Owens — LP.8

May 16, 2022

LP.8 reflects a notable progression for Owens, but one that flattens her sound in the name of concept.

Kelly Lee Owens’ third record, LP.8, is a work of brooding electronic soundscape which evinces a natural progression — by intentional, self-aware design — of her sound, imagining where it might go next and taking us there. It’s an interesting enough concept in its own right, and it’s wonderfully supported by the rich personality that Owens already carries through her music, here pivoting much more sharply than you’d expect out of a third album, particularly one as lauded as her sophomore release. The result from this soft experiment produces plenty of fine moments, but distinctly fails to reach the high mark of her first two records.

What’s immediately, notably present on LP.8 is its sense of command. Opening with “Release,” which builds from the repeated, titular order, the first track establishes a definitive, heavy rhythm that lasts the whole record through, as if it was an extended electronic mix. There’s a certain spirituality that springs from this pulsating beat, almost as if it was a mantra or chant from some faded religious practice. This unique character is further expressed on “Anadlu,” which becomes not unlike a guided breathing exercise set over a loud kick drum, the kind of sound that settles deep in the listener’s brain. It’s sensorially impressive in the moment, but unfortunately it’s not a sensation that’s maintained for the whole record; there are inconsistencies in execution, bogging down a concept that is otherwise well-realized. The first half of the record shines, but its frontloaded nature becomes clear as we move into its back stretch, which plays like a slow descent to the finale; it’s not necessarily a sequencing issue that enervates the album, but rather a complete lack of bangers to offer a switch-up. Even a few tracks with more uptempo production could have worked wonders here.

Still, there’s no denying LP.8 is the album Owens wanted to make, one that takes stock of her work and makes a concerted effort to move it forward. After two successful albums, it’s a move that reflects reasonable enough logic and artistic calculation, but while much of the work here is pleasant on its face, it doesn’t quite measure up in sum, and certainly doesn’t meet the hype that Owens has engendered thus far. There are worse fates than releasing a conceptually adventurous if functionally colorless album, but ideally Owens’ next time at the plate will result in something a bit different and considerably more organic.

Published as part of Album Roundup — April 2022 | Part 1.