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.
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The New Life is available from Slumberland Records on 2/26.