Philadelphia-by-way-of-California duo Girlpool released Powerplant in May, and it was probably a great summer heartbreak album, all intertwining guitars and fragile voices. Opener “123” comes in like a lamb and revs up to lion level at the chorus—but it’s a sweet, sad lion. The soft/loud ratio remains pretty constant throughout Powerplant, and it’s pretty obvious that Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker’s hearts are in the ’90s—The Softies loom largest, though Girlpool crunches too much to attain such snowy perfection. Tividad and Tucker’s voices get just a bit irritating, as they stick to barely-a-whisper mode, but maybe it helps to hear them as menacing in a downturned way—the shy girls who nod and smile, and then go key your car. Girlpool plays D.C.’s Black Cat with Land of Talk on February 7.
Say Sue Me
Say Sue Me (Damnably)
South Korean pop: It isn’t just flash dancing boy bands anymore. Say Sue Me is led by Busan singer/guitarist Sumi (get it?) Choi, who comes from the this-is-easy school of indie songwriting. This disc collects the band’s first LP, plus an EP and a new song, nearly all of which is catchy and full of familiar moves—a little Pavement, a little surf rock, all within the classic confines of two guitars, bass and drums. The small problem is that at 18 cuts, the album does get to be a bit too much of a good thing—I kept hearing songs that sounded like the last one, and then there’d be another one. Still, Choi is charming company, capable of wrenching a wry smile while steady rocking on “I Know I’m Kind of Boring” and delivering gorgeous wistfulness on “Summer Night.”
Change of State (Sinderlyn)
In February, London’s Novella released a driving sophomore album that delivered on the promise of its 2015 debut, Land. Recorded with James Hoare—whose stock keeps rising around here—Change of State does justice to a bevy of rad reference points. Opener “Does the Island Know” sounds like Echo & the Bunnymen fronted by lotus eaters; the breakdown in the title track throws in some ’60s psych buzz guitar; and the whole thing is soaking in Stereolab, Neu! and Dum Dum Girls. Holly Warren and Sophy Hollington’s reverberating duet harmonies are spot-on throughout, and the prevailing tone is one of casual badassery with a touch of pain, or at least ennui. They ride on top of churning, chiming guitars, faintly floating organ pads and automatic grooves. Change of State is physical and heady—hopefully Novella will stay that course and hold at bay the tempting charms of cool affect.
Midnight Love (Mirror)
It bugs me when bands name themselves for movies, and I’m almost grateful when I hate their music, too. So thank you, Save Ferris. Keeping an open mind can pay off, of course —from the same movie, we have Aussie singer-songwriter Sloan Peterson (who in fairness basically had to adopt a stage name, because her real name’s Joe Jackson). And this EP actually kinda does sound like music Ferris Bueller’s cool, fun girlfriend would listen to, cruising suburban Chicago in a Cabriolet, hair waving in the sun like the glossy flag of privileged ’80s teenhood. But Sloan the singer is cooler than the character—too personable to be insouciant and too ragged to be glossy—and Midnight Love is full of well tarnished nuggets of new wave and ’80s alt rock from the chugging, dusty “105” to the melancholy, moonlit “Break My Heart.”