Christopher Owens’ former group Girls set the indie world on fire with their 2009 underground hit Album. Owens’ singing voice drew comparisons to Elvis Costello; the songs evoked ’60s power-pop, ’70s punk and contemporary indie rock. The band represented their San Francisco roots, mixing gutter punk sensibilities, flower-power flourishes and Castro-style gay culture references; in “Lust for Life” Owens sings: “Oh, I wish I had a boyfriend / I wish I had a loving man in my life / I wish I had a father / Maybe then I would’ve turned out right.”
Throughout, Owens drew on his checkered past: At 16 he escaped a fundamentalist cult, joining mainstream society via pop music and hardcore punk. In 2012 Owens announced he was leaving Girls due to the group’s inability to maintain a consistent lineup. Owens told Pitchfork: “We were replacing members for every other tour; I didn’t feel like I had other people who were maturing alongside me. I counted out the amount of people that were in the band over the years. It was 21 — a giant amount of people. That’s feeling disappointed 21 times over.”
In 2013 Owens released his first solo album, Lysandre, taking the Girls formula, mellowing it out a bit, and otherwise changing absolutely nothing. Lysandre is a concept album, telling the story of the first Girls world, and taking its name from a girl Owens met in France during that time. “I sat down to put the story of how I met her — and the tour on which that happened — into words,” Owens adds. “I decided to let the theme dictate the chords and form of the entire record, making every song on the album akin to the other, never leaving the key of A.”
The album opens with the groovy Donovan-esque “Lysandre,” flowery jazz-inflected flute is woven throughout the songs, and Costello-style power pop shows up in “New York City,” complete with a charmingly outdated saxophone solo.
Christopher Owens plays with Melted Toys 8 pm Sunday, March 31, at WOW Hall: $15 adv., $18 door, $20 for reserved seating.