A follow-up to their lush, intimate debut album Earl Grey that established them as one of the country’s best new indie groups, Girl Ray broaden their sonic palette for sophomore effort Girl. Meant as a tribute to their childhood love of pop and R&B, producer Ash Workman has twisted their sound into something sharper and more dancefloor-orientated.
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Two key things have happened to Girl Ray since the release of their debut LP ‘Earl Grey’ back in 2017. The first one was going on tour with Porches, an act who has morphed from twee-ish troubadour to sleek synth-popster in recent years. The second was enlisting Ash Workman, a producer who has previously linked up with Metronomy and Christine & the Queens, to record ‘Earl Grey’s follow-up.
The resulting album, ‘Girl’, sees the trio’s sound following a similar-ish path to Porches. This set is notably slicker than its lovable and well-worn predecessor. Many of these tracks draw heavily on pop trends of the day - dembow, dusky house, library-funk all show up on the record - and everything here is produced with a crisp snap. The band themselves embrace this flex wholeheartedly, riding it with neat harmonies and some of their catchiest songwriting to date.
Vocals are both a strength and a weakness. No matter which of the group are up front, lyrics here are generally delivered in breathy coos with an air of cool detachment. They are what give ‘Girl’ its sense of art-school cool, ushering it away from the mainstream and into the same space as Kero Kero Bonito, Metronomy or (going further back) the Tom Tom Club. However, the lack of variation does come to hinder ‘Girl’, particularly in its less punchy second half.
Perhaps they’ll crack the vocal code next time around - for now, ‘Girl’ is a step in the right direction that contains a couple of the year’s best singles.
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