Saturday, August 27, 2011

Girls, Heretics, Wooden Shjips


Father, Son, Holy Ghost

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Though Girls have a reputation for their ironic streak, everything sounds completely genuine on the band’s third album Father, Son, Holy Ghost. From the genre-bending to the religious references to the emotions expressed in singer Christopher Owens’s puppy-dog voice, everything is delivered with a sincerity that’s impossible to ignore. The opening two songs set the mood. “Honey Bunny” is a galloping surf-pop song that hides a complex portrait of a loser in love; “Alex” is a remarkably beautiful ballad to an ambiguous target; the two tunes could not be more stylistically different, but both sound like completely natural territory and are delivered with the same passion. However, the major Mothra in the ointment on Father, Son, Holy Ghost is the bookending of brilliant single “Vomit” with the two most boring songs on the record. The songs in question are the ambient gospel ballad “My Ma” and the seven-minute, mostly acoustic folk epic “Just A Song.” Were the songs excluded (or at least moved), Father, Son, Holy Ghost might just be the best Bay Area album of the year so far. It’s certainly the most powerful.


The Hand We Were Dealt EP

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“Perfect In The End” is one of the most beautiful songs released this year so far by any Bay Area artist. With its gentle major chords, fluid bass, and expressive vocals, it sounds like it could be an outtake from Destroyer’s jazz-rock epic Kaputt that was given to a teen garage band to interpret. While the other three aim more for groove than beauty or mood, they are fine song in their own right. “Over Again” sounds like the White Stripes battling Jaws on surfboards; “Casanova” is a riff-flexing instrumental that drags on for only slightly too long; “This Feeling,” with its vaguely pop-punk hook and catchy chorus, would most likely be the single. While the band’s technical and songsmithing chops are obvious, the group’s secret weapon is the singing style of bassist Ryan Meagher, who makes up for what he lacks in vocal range with massive emotional range.



* * * 1/2

Wooden Shjips named their album West and slapped a picture of the Golden Gate on the cover, which gives one a pretty good idea of just how San Francisco this album is. West finds the band moving away from the impenetrable experimentalism of earlier releases and aiming for Sixties classic-psych glory, with very effective results. Spidery organs and spaced-out, Fillmore-worthy guitar solos dominate the landscape on this album, all set over a wall of droning psychedelic fuzz. Listening to West is not unlike walking down Haight Street after eating more brownies than your brain (or stomach) can handle--the music keeps you walking in a straight line, but your eyes veer in all directions to observe everything there is to see. It’s a jammy album, resulting in a good listen most likely requiring a healthy attention span or no real attention span at all. If the former, West is a gratifying and interesting listen that rarely lapses into self-indulgence. If the latter, simply sit back and let the drones wash over you, taking you in their undertow.

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