Girls, Album

Yancey Strickler

By Yancey Strickler

on 06.15.11 in Reviews

Girls' Album is not hip, stylish or inventive. It's a simple, conservative record that has more in common with Dion than with some random hipster band. The songs are focused and uncomplicated — "Lust for Life" is the pop song, "Morning Light" the rocker, "Darling" the ballad — and the production is, too. Objectively, it's all very ordinary. And yet Album is ridiculously listenable and likable, and Girls could become stars from its success.

Perfect songs, beamed in from a 1950s California dreamland

The music may be straightforward, but Girls themselves are oddballs — and weird people making normal music is always an excellent thing. Girls are led by the odd couple of Christopher Owens and JR White — Owens with long dirty hair and teenaged demeanor and White a brooding, '50s leading man (both are in their late 20s). Owens sings and plays guitar and White plays bass.

Their best moment is "Hellhole Ratrace" — all seven dreamy, monotonous minutes of it. Even though it's little more than a repetition of the same verse and chorus, it's a masterpiece. The melody is simple and refined and the builds and inflections are subtly spectacular. Close is the big, clanging "Summertime" with its verses like: "Lay in the park/ Smoke in the park/ Get high like I used to do/ Summertime/ Soak up the sunshine with you." The guitar and bass pleasantly churn and there's no percussion until the very end. It's nothing but nostalgia.

Album feels very classically late-'50s/early-'60s — the songs are rooted in that style, and even the chord changes are a bit old-fashioned. (None other than Elvis Costello told us that when we played him "Hellhole Ratrace.") Take the lush lullaby "Solitude," the B-side to "Hellhole Ratrace" that rivals anything here, and its soft tenderness that would send '50s homecoming slow-dancers groping for more. Or "Lauren Marie," which feels like a deconstructed Phil Spector ballad, all of the classic elements there but dramatically realigned.

This is an album of songs — not mood or style or ambition. The first few listens might provide a bit of a shock — they certainly did for me. I can't remember the last time an album was so content with simply being what it was, nothing more than that. Already being a massive Girls fan, that bothered me at first, but now, after having spent three months listening to this constantly, it's my favorite thing about it. It sounds like the California you see in movies, a dreamland ruled by simplicity, bright red lipstick and a lover's shoulder. It sounds perfect.