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The Next Life

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Album Review

Girls Names first album, Dead to Me, is a reverb-soaked, barely under control noise-fest that sounded much like what you'd expect a Slumberland band to sound like (if you'd only heard Black Tambourine and the Crystal Stilts anyway.) Sometime afterwards, the Irish group decided to change things up and lose the noisy half of the equation, and for their second album, 2013's The New Life, they go for a much more sonically restrained and atmospheric sound. Where before there would be squalling guitars and pounding drums, now there are moody synth washes and echoing guitar lines — it's a much more dramatic sound that owes more to trench-coated bands of the early '80s like Echo and the Bunnymen or Joy Division than to any noise pop groups. To go with the newly dark and mysterious approach, the songs rely more on feel and mood than on hooks and energy as in the past. Cathal Cully, too, sings with more death in his deadpan voice, invoking Ian Curtis but not to the point of slavish worship. More like this is merely what extremely mopey British guys sound like when they sing. Luckily, the band can pull off the gloomily downcast material featured on The New Life just as well as they did the spikier songs and feverish attitude on Dead to Me. It could have been a bland disaster, with all the life sucked out of the band only to be replaced by a sullen pose, but instead they manage to invest the songs with enough passionate restraint and sneaky hooks to make it an impressive follow-up. While the overall melancholy spell the album casts is its strongest selling point, there are lots of sonic hooks to keep the listener from drifting off, and a few songs that stand out from the bunch. The jangling, uptempo "Second Skin" provides a transient jolt of doomy energy, the mystically groovy "Projektion" shows off the group's psych-pop chops (with bongos!), and lengthy album closer "The New Life" rides a steady Motorik beat and some insistent vocals to a convulsive, feedback-strewn conclusion. These songs, and the album as a darkly moody whole, show the band to be growing into masters of crafting modern psychedelia with dark swirls instead of day-glo, and bad trips instead of sunshine days.


Formed: 2009 in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The Belfast, Ireland group Girls Names formed in 2009, initially as a duo consisting of guitarist/vocalist Cathal Cully and novice drummer Neil Brogan. They started off with a noisy sound that nodded to old-school indie pop acts like Beat Happening, Field Mice, and Josef K. Bassist Claire Miskimmin, whom Cully had to teach the basics of her instrument before she joined, was brought on board as a full-fledged member of Girls Names the following year. Girls Names' demos were released on cassette tape...
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The Next Life, Girls Names
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