By Rebecca Bulnes
By Laurie Charles
By Chuck Strouse
By Lee Zimmerman
By Laurie Charles
By Falyn Freyman
By Hans Morgenstern
You don't need to know the music of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone to know that somehow, somewhere, sometime, you too have trod down that same long, dark road. But it helps, if only for the fact that you can commiserate. You might even get a bit gleeful hearing how much more someone else has suffered, unless, of course, you too have never had a happy day in your life.
But if there's something tremendously uplifting about running across a cat who's suffered more than you and is not afraid to sing about it, there's something equally enlightening about hearing how the unhappy happens — and how it's handled. This is why we read Raymond Carver; this is why we listen to Morrissey; and this is why we dig the brilliance that is Casiotone for the Painfully Alone.
CftPA is not a band; it's a man named Owen Ashworth. Born in Redwood City, California, and residing in Chi-town, the man makes the kind of bedroom mood music that breaks your heart, and he's been doing it since 1999 — just him, some rinky-dink keyboards, and his hurt.
But if his 1999 debut, Answering Machine Music, was cot-size introspections for the microcassette set, Ashworth's 2001 followup, Pocket Symphonies for Lonesome Subway Cars, took the navel gaze to the unused drawing room of a recluse. So too 2003's Twinkle Echo, which also was the last of Ashworth's purely solo recordings.
Chalk it up to a newfound bravery, or credit the blogosphere that for so long has been clucking about Casiotone, but Etiquette, in 2006, found the man expanding his plan to what was unfathomable proportions. "Nashville Parthenon" came with a beat even Postal Service would wield, and a slide guitar straight outta Don Ho by way of Twin Peaks. "Bobby Malone Moves Home" churned with a piano Rufus or Antony might play. And "Young Shields," the lead single, was bouncy enough to sway alongside Belle and Sebastian or Peter, Bjorn, and John.
Okay, so not quite. Ashworth still has more akin to Lambchop or Tindersticks, but his sadness is now rendered with a glow even the dark can't keep out. And this Saturday, at an ever-happening joint called the White Room, under the auspices of the good folks of Poplife, Ashworth will be deeply aglow. So, go.