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Girls - Album

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Artist: Girls

Album: Album

Label: True Panther

Review date: Sep. 21, 2009

The run-up to Girls’ debut Album has really incited a flurry of attention. First there was Pitchfork Top 100 validation in 2008, which led to signing with Matador, then the stories about the Children of God, the cover of Fader opposite most-hyped new rapper Drake, and a couple of low-budget, highly awesome videos.

What makes Album so good, however, won’t be a consensus opinion on whether or not it’s culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant. It’ll be the personal associations brought to it by each person encountering Girls for the first time.

I first started spending some quality time with Girls two months back when I moved to San Francisco. Leaving New York had shaken me in a way I hadn’t expected. I felt like I was on the back of my heels the minute the plane hit the ground. Which led to a lot of wandering, and thinking, and figuring out. It was right around when Aaron Lewis Brown’s video for “Hellhole Ratrace” had just started getting attention, and I watched it pretty much every chance I could get. Seeing San Francisco late at night while Christopher Owens sang about dancing, needing someone else, and making it for yourself … well, it worked.

After a month, things had settled down. I had an apartment, friends, a job, and it was summer, and right when I needed an anthem to rally around, Brown comes out with a video for “Lust for Life,” the audiovisual definition of the good life. Boyfriends, suntans, pizza, bottles of wine, a big fire; these are the things that Owens and JR White wish for. Simple. Down-to-earth. Totally achievable. A little more tangible than “A Few of My Favorite Things,” but no less life affirming.

These two A-sides are the tent poles for 10 more great summer pop songs. It’s been a year full of cozy jams by indie-cool bands from the Bay Area to Brooklyn to London. Yet none have been half as candid as Girls, or so committed to what they were singing about.

Yes, Album is a record about dreaming within your means, but it also has a place for the less fortunate side of those realities. “Ghost Mouth” looks for the easy way out of a dead-end life, even while invoking Sinead O’Connor’s ghost in the line “I knew it when I heard it the first time / I knew it when I heard it the last time / Nothing compares to you.” There’s not one but two tales of lost love and perseverance named after the ones that got away, the first being the Costello bounce of “Laura” and the 1950s high school slow dance of “Lauren Marie.” And there’s both a physical and emotional ache on the tropically inspired escape fantasy of “Headache.” In fact, there’s a restlessness and a longing for something just out of reach in almost every song.

The flip side to this is the feeling that you’re never alone. Owens and White make the case that anyone can get by with a little help from their friends, including you and yours. Such a sentiment is what makes it all so relatable. This record is definitely of a scene, full of inside jokes, personal references, and some definitely based-on-real-people-and-events lyrics. It’s not of the San Francisco music scene, or even San Francisco itself, but lives of an extremely close cast of characters. Album is as much about the snapshots of life as the songs contained within. In that sense, Owens and White may have written the album, but their friends made it possible.

The feeling I’m left with is difficult to describe. It’s bittersweet but entirely welcome. It makes each of these songs utterly addictive, leaving a craving for the good, the bad, and the come what may. Now, when people ask me “how are you,” “what have you been up to,” or “should I come to San Francisco,” I just refer them to Girls.

By Evan Hanlon

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