Against my best efforts I am unable to give an objective review of Girls’ Album. Thus this piece has been relegated “opinion” and should be read as such.
Where to start…
The good news is that of the albums I’ve reviewed so far from the top 50 of 2009, this is the first disappointing listen I’ve happened upon. It might be my affinity for pop music and polished production that keeps me from tolerating Album, but it might also be that this release is just a sloppy mess. I admit that low-fi isn’t my thing and that I put the utmost importance in a vocal performance that is musical, but even when lead singer Christopher Owens is in tune he sounds lazy and drugged. Again, I realize this is part of the mystique of such a record but I can’t in good conscience consider this album as one of 2009s best when it sounds like a ruination of true music.
A little more than a year ago I wrote about my growing taste for indie music in an opinion article that focused on critics’ increased fondness for indie styles. Along with making the point that pop music tends to elicit a stronger positive or negative response than said indie rock, I contend that for indie music to be taken seriously it must still be music. Meaning it still needs to have melody, song structure, and musicianship. Girls fall short in only one of my criteria here, but they fall drastically short. Album contains pockets of brilliant melody and withholds pop formatted songwriting throughout, but the musicianship is just short of terrible.
At times the ambiance is quite attractive, complete with ethereal passages and classic melodies. Yet as a complete album there isn’t really much going on here besides the insensible impulses of a haunted man. If there is one thing on which critics seem to hinge their opinions of Album it’s that Owens’ back-story makes this record compelling. I must argue that the typical music consumer doesn’t much care about back-story. For the most part, people want music to connect them with what they’re experiencing or to elevate them from a state in which they wish to escape. For some, Girls’ Album might have the power to do this. But if it is only at the dispensing of the songwriters’ back-story that such a connection can be appreciated than clearly something musical is lacking. We shouldn’t need all the history and circumstance (as heartbreaking as Owens’ story is) to appreciate an album.
What I think this displays is a lack of musicality and disregard of craft for story. Music still must be musical. And Owens can sing (whine) until he’s blue in the face, I just won’t be listening.