When Girls released their auspicious debut full-length, the cleverly titled Album, I thought that they should just call it a day, confident in the fact that they put out an album that could not be improved upon. The first album by a band is often the best they ever put out, but this debut was as good as anything anyone was putting out period. I’m happy to say that with their third release, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Girls has proven me wrong. Not only is it better than Album, it’s better than anything else I’ve heard this year (Yes. It’s taking The Decemberist’s out of the number one spot).
It’s hard to explain exactly what it is about Girls that hits me so hard, but give it a listen and maybe you’ll get the same feeling I do. Chris Owens voice has that perfect mix of confidence and vulnerability I like in this style of indie rock, and his lyrics only help. He approaches his songs very simply, and the sound that he and producing partner Chet White create is a 60’s surf-pop/psychaedelia that compliments his words beautifully.
Maybe the simplest song on the record, “Vomit,” is also one of the best songs I’ve heard this year. There are maybe thirty words repeated over and over, but it works perfectly with the music Owens puts behind his vocals. Here’s a lyric:
Nights I spend alone
I spend ’em runnin’ ’round lookin’ for you, baby
Nights I spend alone
I spend ’em runnin’ ’round and ’round and ’round
And ’round and ’round and ’round and ’round and ’round
And down and down and down and down and down
As he hits the end of the verse with the fifth “down,” the guitar explodes into a fuzzy ball of nervous energy that turns the song from a quiet, contemplative missive to a former lover into a rockin’ declaration of longing. It gets even better at the end of verse two, when some backup vocals come soaring in that sound like they came from a gospel choir (not unlike Doris Troy’s vocals on Pink Floyd’s “Time”). It is really a glorious song with a not so glorious name.
Skipping ahead a bit, and I don’t want to give too much of this album away because I want you all to experience it for yourselves, the penultimate song is my favorite on the record. “Love Like A River” is again quite simple, but it evokes deep emotion. If you were a fan of the song “Putting The Dog To Sleep” off the Antlers record earlier this year, you’re gonna love this tune. It’s got that same great rhythm and soul that makes it stand out even on a record with some stellar tunes. The guitar work on this one reminds me a bit of some Elvin Bishop songs, so if you like that kind of music, this song may just sell you on Girls.
The last track kind of picks up where “Love Like A River” leaves off, but softer-at the beginning. After the second verse the Hammond organ kicks in and takes it to the next level. The words are heartbreaking, and it seems like Owens is at once pining for the girl and also admitting to himself that it’s over:
And I know you are gonna be just fine,
you know they say it’s better
to have loved and to lose it,
than to never ever know it,
Easy come and easy go, whatever
Father, Son, Holy Ghost is one of those special albums that comes around every few years that you know tweny years from now you’ll still be listening to. It’s sweet and it’s sometimes sad, but it’s always honest and never afraid to go to unexpected places. I love it for those reasons and more, but I’ll let you get to know it yourself before I discuss those. For now, start saving up your cash so you can hit up your record store and grab a copy on the 13th of September when it drops.