This debut album from San Francisco duo Girls is so subtly engaging, so quietly addictive that it's virtually impossible to pinpoint exactly when, during the listening process, you fell in love or remember your life without this sound in it. It is the work of frontman Christopher Owens and Chet White and though it comprises twelve startlingly simply tracks it seems to encompass a whole history of love songs, each of which rises to the surface at one time or another but never dominate or detract from the central voice, and it's in this voice that the addiction begins.
Recalling as much Elvis Costello as Buddy Holly or Roy Orbison, Owens' 50's drawl is so unique that it could have been the undoing here while stretched out over 44 minutes. But instead it removes the listener from this time and takes them somewhere else. It has the Golden Oldies feel to it but with sometimes crudely produced jangly guitars and Owens' acutely contemporary writing this reference simply adds to the timeless quality and injects a beautiful element of nostalgia. These are heartbreaking songs that are often centered around love lost or yearned for but the quiver and vulnerability in Owens' delivery suggest a deeper hurt. Without this suggestion Album would just be an enjoyable Beach Boys do-over but the simplicity of these songs are underpinned by an emotional complexity.
Musically it's a pretty mixed bag. It tends to divide a lot of its time between the playful jangle-pop of songs like opener Lust For Life or the heart-wrenching croon of slow-jams like Lauren Marie or Headache where we join Owens as he floats weightless in cavernous chambers of loneliness. It can then glimmer with contemporary flair and serve up the lo-fi shoegaze scuzz of Morning Light or the clipped guitar ditty God Damned. The central and most addictive song has to be the first single to be released from Album, Hellhole Ratface. It's by far the longest track and lyrically the most intriguing. As usual it's built around the simple structure that has held our hand all the way through this record. But out of this structure where Owens pines for the brighter days that are surely around the corner he lifts the song into something profoundly special as the chorus is repeated into an unnerving swirling mantra. It's pure genius and might just be one of the best songs to delightfully grace my ears this year. And it sits proud on top of an exceptional pile. These are songs that could so easily have fallen into the category of forgettable pastiche, but instead dazzle with originality and integrity. Highly recommended.