They may have been hyped to high heaven, but you can't help but feel for Girls with regards to how easily they were dismissed by many upon their breakthrough in 2009. Due in large part to their attitude rather than the music they made, the LA duo were categorically thrown in with slackers like Best Coast and Wavves, despite the fact that they were producing music of far greater depth and sophistication than any bands of that type. Their debut LP, Album was unleashed to plenty of acclaim, but did little to alter their perception among critics, so the ball was firmly in their court to with regards to proving doubters wrong come the follow-up. Father, Son, Holy Ghost jumps at that chance, exceeding it's predecessor and in doing so providing more ammunition for their growing group of fans rather than their opposite numbers.
Perhaps the first thing that is evident upon listening to the record is the improvement in main man Christopher Owens' performance. His songwriting has come on solidly as evidenced by excellent opening duo 'Honey Bunny' and 'Alex,' while the full-on prog riffing of following track 'Die' suggests that he's expanded his musical pallet considerably. The biggest step forward, however, comes with Owens' vocal abilities, wherein many of the songs here excel. Aside from sounding more assured, which is a common feature on sophomore albums, he's altered his delivery to a quieter, more emotionally affecting whisper, adding an extra poignancy to his lovelorn lyrics which as before prove the centerpiece to most of the songs.
The lyrics are an especially important piece of the jigsaw given that the vast majority of the record seems familiar musically. In truth, tracks like 'Jamie Marie' don't seem that remarkable at all on first listen, but they do reveal their subtle brilliance upon closer inspection. Indeed that particular song may initially sound like filler from Yuck's album, but further spins show that it in fact sounds more like Conor Oberst at his understated best. Not every cut here requires time to settle in, though. The aforementioned pair of indie-pop songs which open the record provide a warm welcome for the listener given that they're just so likeable, while lead single 'Vomit' is arguably the most immediate cut on the record despite being the most ambitious and second most lengthy moment on it.
Some of it's secrets may take longer to spill, but what ultimately becomes apparent is that this is an album without duds, in which almost every song stands out in it's own right. It's not quite the masterpiece many feel Girls have in them, but it's nevertheless a confident step in the right direction which will only enhance their reputation among indie enthusiasts. Equally, though, it's an album that'll prove a kick in the face for detractors, and goes some way towards banishing the myth that they're just another pair of slackers who decided to form a band. They may hold that attitude, but as this record shows there's also a lot of substance to what they're doing, and you wouldn't bet against them progressing further come RECORD 4.
Father, Son, Holy Ghost is available now in most countries.
1. Honey Bunny
4. Saying I Love You
5. My Ma
7. Just a Song
10. Love Like a River
11. Jamie Marie