As a Canadian indie band, Women made some waves with their self titled first release two years ago, be it a spot on “Pitchfork’s top songs of the 2000’s,” and comparisons of their sound to the likes of Deerhunter and, to stretch it, The Velvet Underground. Since then they have been hard at work with this new album, Public Strain, which would hopefully follow their debut in the combination of moody rock music.
Opening up the album is “Can’t You See,” which begins with an intense amount of feedback and ambient noise. This background noise continues through the whole song as somewhat monotonous vocals echo slightly above. The bass line throbs constantly, but those screeches in the background seem a bit too prominent for this simple of a song, and I find myself wishing they were gone about halfway through. “Heat Distraction” then loses the nasty noise in the background and moves to a faster, out right rock beat with repeating layers of guitar that serve as the main focus of the song.
Such is the main focus for this whole album, layers of sound topped with wavy guitars as icing on the cake (not your favorite kind of cake, but one that is still edible). Women vary between slow movers that showcase the dark sound that this band does so well, such as “Penal Colony,” whose melancholy lull carries over into a purely instrumental piece, leaving the listener to ponder where exactly the band is trying to lead you, but they attempt to give an answer to this question on exceptional tracks like “Locust Valley,” where intricate guitar playing and a simple chorus of just “oohs and aahs” make up the simple song. With songs like these, Women know where to put the builds in their album; it comes after another song that, I feel, has too much feedback and not enough actual music to hold it up.
They finish off with “Eyesore,” a rather long closer, but probably the best song on the whole album, as “Black Rice” was on their prior work. It seems like the singing and the guitars are almost equal, which gives this song an eloquent balance between pure instrumental and indie rock. There are breaks in the song in which the guitars outweigh the vocals, and in turn, bits where the vocals seem to be the main focus, which makes this song enjoyable for the six minutes and twenty five seconds it lasts.
This leads me to my biggest problem with this album: the vocals are not prominent enough, and they seem to blend together with each song. Every listen, it becomes more tolerable and the flaws become less noticeable. However, it just seems as though Women haven’t really made up their mind in terms of who they are.
Download: Women – Narrow With the Hall [MP3]