Admittedly, I think I’m partial to the Girls Names debut, Dead to Me. There was something in the simplicity of the songwriting that the band now seems to have discarded for the most part. Their newest single, like their 11 minute 12″ tune from earlier this year, goes beyond simplicity, filling in space with sonic exploration. Still, what I’m liking from this new effort is the band’s adherence to pop tropes within the confines of their new direction; while it borders on a touch too long, there’s still evidence of a pop song in every moment. It’s our first listen to the band’s new album, Arms Around a Vision, which will be out in October via Tough Love.
When a band makes a sonic change, sometimes you lose fans or confuse fans, but the slightest change here should be considered a leap, with Girls Names releasing what I believe is one of the best records that will come out in 2013. The New Life maintains the group’s penchant for uniting jangling guitars with atmospheric psychedelia, but creates this brooding darkness that propels the group into a category all their own.
“Pittura Infamante” was one of the first singles leaked out, and almost immediately you could tell that the group had something building. The bass line alone brings in a different level of darkness, with Cathal Cully hauntingly crooning atop the verses. Yet, two things minimize the black effects: the guitars and the chorus. Cully’s voice carefully sways from the moment he sings “across,” accentuated by some nice keyboard additives. From there The New Life moves even further into its ghastly presentation with “Drawing Lines.” My ears can’t get over the vocal here, in a good way. It sounds as if they’ve been recorded in some ancient cathedral, evoking the purest emotion from any listener. Also, you’ll note that the first of the two tracks, excluding the introductory “Portrait,” are far greater in length than the work done on Dead to Me–their debut had not a song over 4 minutes, but here, you’re lucky to find the two that just barely fit under that mark. It demonstrates a bit more creativity and budding craft as songwriters, all which benefit the record.
While Girls Names have created more sprawling adventures this time out, don’t let me convince you that it all has to be affected by doom and gloom. The swirling guitars that eventually open “Occultation” surely display an added light to the record. Of course, Cully enters again with that demonic croon while the distorted guitar reverberates in your speakers. Sonically dark, yes. Emotionally light, check! Towards the end, the song has its own negative space exploration before jumping right back into a spirited close. But, just because the band can traipse off into their own sonic realms in spectacular fashion, that doesn’t mean you should ignore the shortest track on The New Life. Neil’s drumming really pushes the pace here, and the brighter side of the group’s guitar playing really shines through. Even when they do things in tighter fashion, they give you more than you bargained for. Right now, I’m particularly in love with the chorus.
Hopefully I’ve given you some insight into what listening to The New Life will be like when you let that needle hit the record. However, those are just some personal highlights, and I think what each listener brings to the table will really play a huge role in how the record is perceived. That being said, I couldn’t be happier for Girls Names–they’ve taken on their remarkable promise as a young band and taken things to an entirely different level. Feel free to swoon over this record for the rest of 2013…and beyond.
The New Life is available from Slumberland Records on 2/26.
Personally, I couldn’t be more excited about new music from Girls Names. For one, the band’s drummer Neil has won me over with his Sea Pinks project, but I like the darkened underbelly hinted at with Girls Names. Apparently after releasing Dead to Me, the band began to rework their sound, which is completely acceptable, but none the less important to the group’s developing sound. This tune is a good four minutes shorter than their previous leaked single, but I think you’re going to like the feel of the tune. It’s got a wayward jangle, but there’s a wafting quality created by the guitars and the vocals that carries the mood of the ]track. If you dig what you’re hearing (and you should!) then you can pick up their new effort, The New Life, on February 26th from Slumberland Records.
Earlier this year I raved about Girls Names full length, Dead to Me, so when they announced the release of a new single on Slumberland Records, I scrambled to listen to it. It’s exactly what I expect coming from this group, although the guitar lines seem really clean–that’s a positive. Deep vocals floating through it all and steady drumming build an excellent foundation for this little jam. Between this and Sea Pinks (the drummer’s project) it seems like Belfast is under control of these lads; surely we’ll all benefit from this![audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Girls_Names_-_Black_Saturday.mp3]
Download: Girls Names – Black Saturday [MP3]
While it may be extremely easy to write about Girls Names, based on the fact that they fit right into the musical landscape as it currently stands, it’s almost impossible to get their latest effort out of your head. Being released by Slumberland, Dead to Me displays a band that’s sharpened their knives, ready to go to work crafting infectious pop you can bounce about to while working on pretty much anything that comes your way.
One of the great things about Dead to Me is that you aren’t likely to get bogged down listening to one particular track over and over again, as only two songs go beyond the 3 minute mark. “Lawrence” begins it all with that jagged club dance guitar, but the drums themselves sound as if you’re tapping your toes, not like your normal snare work. And that just takes you right along to another track that gives you a little bit of pep in the step, though “I Could Die” has a much more gritty guitar that hammers throughout those hypnotic melodies. Strikingly, the guitar, at times, has a sunny disposition, which is odd considering the group hails from Belfast, not Cali, but you’ll be glad they’re utilizing such style.
“No More Words” takes a softer approach to the craft of Girls Names, as Neil Brogan’s vocals warmly float over the entire track. It’s not like you’ll find too much different here, but Brogan manages to off-set the pep by slowly drawing out his vocals, which might remind listeners of early work by Tim Cohen. Still, it’s all done in short time, so you’re sort of taking at shot in the dark at finding various textures, that is until you get to the longest track on Dead to Me, “I Lose.” There’s a cloudy coat that barely drapes itself over this song, and the guitar’s are furiously pumping through the track, and you can tell that this isn’t just your ordinary stab at rehashing things that have come before the band. It’s at this point, while noticing the differences, that you can clearly say you see the Girls Names as a fully functioning entity.
There’s likely to be comparisons to band’s like Crystal Stilts, especially after listening to the record’s single “Seance on a Wet Afternoon.” There’s a darkness to the track, and one that likely permeates from the title Dead to Me, but perhaps it’s not fair to lump the band in with anyone else. Brogan clearly has similarities to other dark crooners of the pop cannon, but his performance here makes it’s own mark, often feeling a bit unsteady, but in a heartening manner. Surely by this point, if you’ve made it through all ten tracks as you should have, then you’ll recognize that it’s simply a joy to involve yourself with Girls Names. They’ve worked hard to tighten up the unit, flesh out the sound, and it pays off huge dividends for both the band and listeners alike.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/10_Seánce_on_a_Wet_Afternoon.mp3]
Download: Girls Names – Seance on a Wet Afternoon [MP3]