Advance Base Credit: Jeff Marini

In 2015, Chicago singer-songwriter Owen Ashworth told me he considered Nephew in the Wild, the then-forthcoming second album of his solo project Advance Base, a make-or-break effort: “The fate of this record will decide how much time I can put into music in the future, as far as how much I share with the world.” Since then, the indie veteran has noticeably ramped up his label, Orindal, which began as a vehicle to release his own work but has since blossomed into a valuable outlet that champions a loose coterie of musicians who share his deft grip on atmosphere and intimacy (the July debut album from Gia Margaret, There’s Always Glimmer, is the latest great addition to the label). Though juggling fatherhood and Ordinal made it difficult for Ashworth to find time for his own work, he continued writing Advance Base material. But when it came to making a new album, the pressures of that juggling act combined with the complexities of self-producing and self-releasing Nephew caused him some apprehension. As he recently told Stereogum, “I just didn’t want to record another record, I didn’t want to go through that again.” Fortunately, Boston emo and indie powerhouse Run for Cover gave Ashworth the support and financial resources to fly to Los Angeles to record with engineer-producer Jason Quever, front man for Papercuts (Quever has also worked on albums by Beach House, Cass McCombs, and Ashworth’s former project, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone). Finally, Ashworth emerged last month with Animal Companionship (Run For Cover/Orindal), on which he balances complex themes of aging and relationships while occasionally examining bonds people develop with dogs. Early single “True Love Death Dream” concerns a woman who adopts a pup and names it after her teenage boyfriend who passed away; Ashworth’s sweet, solemn vocals and cinematic synths exude her evolution of grief, love, and hope over decades, and leaves it open-ended; though the heartache is ever present, there’s also a sense of relief.   v