Album of the Week: Girl Ray | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Album of the Week: Girl Ray

Earl Grey Out Now via Moshi Moshi

Aug 04, 2017 Album of the Week Bookmark and Share

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Londoners Poppy Hankin, Iris McConnell, and Sophie Moss were 16 years old when they formed Girl Ray and recorded their first single, “Trouble.” They’re still just 19. Being a teenager is about feeling every emotion right down to the core and crowding round your friends to sink into these feelings with every might, because who knows? They might just consume you.

Girl Ray’s debut record Earl Grey, out today on Moshi Moshi, combines this youthful exuberance with intelligent instrumentation. Straddling the lyrical thoughtfulness of Courtney Barnett, the instrumental wealth of This Is the Kit, and the fun-loving nature of Hinds, this heartfelt album is a joy to behold, and just as consuming as any teenage crush or obsession.

The piano is a grounding base on Earl Grey, no more so than on the intro to “Stupid Things,” as Hankin sings the brilliant simplicity of romance: “I’m thinking of you just to feel close to you/I’ve never done so many stupid things just to make me feel new/But it was just to feel close to you.”

The album’s centerpiece falls to the 13-minute “Earl Grey (Stuck in a Groove),” which moves from an acoustic harmonied ditty to a bluesy sonic marvel of trumpet and chimes. The track wavers between sections until it reaches its jazzy climax, a maelstrom of wah-wah guitar, Spanish trumpet, and improvised flute. This is near-orchestral psychedelia and it provides a wondrous height before a chorus of “ahhs” attends to the last few bars.

This isn’t the only instrumental experimentation. “Preacher” begins as an intimate rendition of a love song which is only just there, as Hankin’s high range is bathed in softness, gorgeously disappearing underneath each strum of the guitar. Elsewhere, “Just Like That” starts with a jangly organ and pumping bass straight out of 1960s Motown.

Girl Ray is a band of charmers who leave in “Stupid Things (reprise),” the first half of which sounds more like a rehearsal take than a true reprise, full of the sensitivity and irritation of practising in your bedroom, trying to get the chords right. Soon it falls into slacker garage territory. It sounds as though Hankin’s bandmates have wandered into her room, turned on the lights, and made a truce to rhyme the name of their debut album perfectly with their band name. It leaves the title of an inevitable second record in a precarious position.

Pick up Under the Radar‘s current print issue (Summer 2017/Issue 61) to read our new Pleased to Meet You interview with Girl Ray.

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