Review : Girls - Broken Dreams Club
PitchforkJust three weeks ago, when Girls announced the release of Broken Dreams Club, they also shared a sprawling, handwritten note penned by frontman Christopher Owens. On stationary flipped upside down, Owens scribbled enthusiastically that this EP was their (timely) way of giving thanks to listeners who've showered the San Francisco duo with love and support since Album, their lemons-to-lemonade debut, which arrived last September. While insisting that his band's latest isn't the sound of them "all grown up," he described the six songs enclosed as a "LETTER OF INTENT," a "SNAPSHOT OF THE HORIZON," and a "step up" from its stunning predecessor.
Girls have grown a lot in the past year. All that time on the road together has provided them with ample opportunity to develop into a tight, fire-breathing band. That's exactly how they sound here: serious and totally devoted to their craft, despite their image as drug-addled scabs. Album's handmade production values were often overlooked-- bloodshot at just the right moments, polished thoughtfully in others, haunting at every turn. But this time out, bassist/producer Chet "JR" White really goes for it, letting every flourish and lick sing without sacrificing any of the strung out, open-armed spirit with which he and Owens take to updating American rock'n'roll standards. Whether it's the whammy bar ripples on its title track, the hot flare of horns in the opener, or even the stereo panning on "Heartbreaker", White's work here frames and accentuates the curves of these songs in ways that elevate them all. Those, too, continue to devastate.
We know from interviews and reviews alike that Owens' back story is big enough to swallow just about any young band. But because of the connective strength of his songwriting, it never did. Singles like "Lust for Life" and "Hellhole Ratrace" transcended and outlasted that initial ruckus: The celebration Owens spun from the sadness in them was something that could be shared, even if his past could put him at an almost alien distance. He has a natural command of his hooks and confessionals, a gift that's only acquired more compelling shades with time. Take the clarity in his promise of "rock'n'roll, out of control" on "Substance" as just one example, or seconds later, as he coolly announces a guitar solo just before it's set loose. They're simple enough, but both jump right off the recording. Elsewhere, lines like those of the aforementioned title track still cut straight to marrow. Over lonesome chords and a few distant strips of pedal steel, Owens hangs his head, "I know you feel like I did, too/ And even though I'm close to you/ I can't be what you need/ Because, you're just as lost as me." As a frontman, Owens has discovered a swagger that matches the deep reserves of melancholy in his voice.
This is still undeniably sad, unsettling music. On flirty opener "Thee Oh So Protective One", Owens serenades the insecurities of a teenage girl. "He'll never know about the times that you cried in your bedroom," he croons. "About the times that you cried in your classroom/ About your mother or your father or the way you got your broken heart." It's one of several hearts breaking here, though "Heartbreaker" showcases the improvement in songwriting best, Owens and White continuing to take the love song template they adore and skew it to their liking. Everything just clicks: its simple, elegant construction, its velvety feel, the way its hopelessly lonesome vocal hook washes over Owens' friendly chord progression. Girls may be only a few releases deep, but those chords sound like theirs alone....full text
FaronheitLast year was very much about Girls. The duo of Christopher Owens and JR White made a whole lot of waves in 2009 thanks to their well-received debut record, ironically titled “Album”. Flanked by the two strong singles of “Lust for Life” and “Hellhole Ratrace”, Girls have become known for sunny pop with a strong 60s influence – great for a day at the beach or catching some waves. So after a year’s worth of touring around the world, including a high profile set at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, the band wants to send a love letter back to the fans that have supported them here there and everywhere. They’ve earned enough money for a proper trip to a recording studio and are eager to show everyone just how they’ve progressed. The result is the “Broken Dreams Club” EP, a six-song, 30 minute collection of songs that really is a celebration of diversity, change and the inevitable compromises we all make when things don’t work out the way we planned.
The “Broken Dreams Club” EP opens with “Thee Oh So Protective One”, a track that feels carved out of time itself, with Owens channeling his best Buddy Holly voice and the vibe being decidedly 50s in nature. It’d be the perfect sort of song to play at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance from “Back to the Future”. As the first piece of evidence that Girls are starting to turn into “young women” (pun 100% intended), the song is also spiked with a horn section that’s both surprising and a delight. As a new single and something that’s been played at Girls’ live shows since “Album” first was released, “Heartbreaker” is a delight. The guitars are remarkably crisp, and the light touches of keyboard with the harmonized chorus just adds a little extra magic to an already catchy and seemingly light song. Of course the stark reality is that the song is anything but bright and sunny, the title alone gives that away. Owens’ sad sack vocals are also another clue, as his ability to convey emotion with a simple chorus and the word “why?” is remarkably great. The five minute title track is a ballad measured out in slide guitar and wistful trumpet, and a splash of organ really brings out Girls’ alt-country side. It winds up falling somewhere between Wilco and Band of Horses…if they used trumpets. The horns show up again on “Alright”, though the jangly guitars really make the melody what it is. What turns the song really interesting is how free form and non-linear it is, largely negating a catchy chorus and verses to simply groove for a bit and keep your toe tapping. The entire second half of the song is just full-on instrumental, save for some echo-laden “oohs” and “aahs”, and for just a moment it feels exactly like something Broken Social Scene would do. Surf rock grooves come on board for “Substance”, which is either an ode to drugs, giving up on life, or both. “Who wants something real/when you could have nothing?/Why not just give up?/Who wants to try?” Owens sings, later proclaiming “I take the key in my hand and it takes the pain away”. The song’s not something you exactly want to be playing when trying to boost your mood, but then again neither are most Girls songs. The nearly 8 minute atmospheric jam session that is the EP closer “Carolina” takes the psychedelic path of least resistance. Effectively trippy is a good way to describe the song, and the main lyrical and catchy chorus portions of it are sitting right in between two instrumental ends. The issue with that midsection is that the way Owens sings it brings up strong memories of the “Album” track “Ghost Mouth”. Listen to both tracks back to back and try to determine how many vocal notes in the choruses are different. I’m willing to be it’s very few. Still, “Carolina” is a very good track and a rather cool way to finish the EP....full text
InsoundVINYL FORMAT. Comes with a digital download coupon! The San Franciscan songwriting duo Girls, comprised of Christopher Owens and Chet "JR" White, return with the follow up with their debut entitled Album. In 2009, Girls introduced the world to a deeply heartfelt confessional album that at once channels some of the classic songsmiths of all time while demonstrating a unique sense of song-writing and production - Album brought critical acclaim to ranging from placements on year-end lists, sold out shows at some of the world's most famous venues and rapturous audiences worldwide. 2010's Broken Dreams Club EP is the natural follow up to Album but introduces a massive sonic shift for the band, in their homemade studio in San Francisco with JR White at the helm. On Broken Dreams Club, we find Girls emerging with a more massive, lusher sound with horns, pedal steel and psychedelic effects dappled throughout. This EP features six brand new songs (a few of which that have been in recent setlists) with a running time of thirty-five minutes....full text
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