By New Times
By Derek Askey
By Mark Deming
By Serene Dominic
By Jason Keil
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Jeff Moses
By Serene Dominic
Given the name Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, it'd be reasonable to assume that the lo-fi songs of one-man band Owen Ashworth are cringe-worthy emo stuff that reasonable adults know to avoid. You know the kind of music: It works best with a new driver's license and Boone's Farm. It's what's found on soundtracks of TV teen dramas.
But Casiotone's music is sturdy, adult stuff. The new album Vs. Children (which follows a bevy of singles, EPs, and four full-length records) is a subdued study of relationships. There's the trademark boy/girl stuff, but the record is mostly devoted to nuanced takes on parenthood.
"The songs are as confessional as they've ever been," Ashworth says. "But it doesn't sound quite as gushy as some of the early stuff. I liked the idea of making a record about family relationships, and the things that people inherit from their parents."
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The record's maturity doesn't stop at its lyrical themes. Whereas previous records earned comparisons to The Postal Service and Xiu Xiu — given their distorted synths and blip-hop beats — Vs. Children explores organic, worn-in terrain, integrating live drums and acoustic pianos into a fuzzy aesthetic and comes across as more like The Mountain Goats than Human League.
"I wanted to make a record of similar themes and textures," he says. "Previous records have been pretty patchwork."
Advance Base Battery Life (a collection of singles and compilation tracks released earlier this year) and Vs. Children find Ashworth exploring seemingly disparate sources. He covers Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, and Missy Elliott in his low-key style on Advance and sings about raising "a little family" on "Schlitz and Mickey Mouse" from Vs. Children. And on "Optimist vs. The Silent Alarm (When the Saints Go Marching In)," he belts out "Hallelujah!" while playing the melody from "Saints" on a bleating organ. Song titles like "I Love Creedence" have made clear Ashworth's devotion to classic rock, and he takes joy in combining the roots-rock ethos with indie-pop's outsider sensibility.
"Most of what I listen to is traditional American stuff," he says. "I've always had an inclination to the underdog mentality that drives me to do things that aren't popular. I want to be challenging in some small, little way. When you make anything, you want it to feel interesting, to resonate with people."
Those who attend Casiotone's show at the Trunk Space will get the chance to hear Ashworth's songs at their most intimate, intricate, intense, heartfelt, and, now, "adult." Ashworth built his reputation on singing songs to alienated youth and endeared himself to the throngs of kids by reflecting his own adolescence. With Vs. Children, Casiotone's music serves an exiting new function: detailing the awkwardness of being "grown up."