One of the beautiful things about huge music festivals like SXSW is that they bring a lot of really incredible bands out of the woodwork that you might never have been exposed to otherwise. Music is promoted, buzz is generated, shows are seen, more buzz, more shows, repeat forever.
Incredible Band No. 1 on my list to see this year is Cheap Girls, an Indie-punk-lo-fi-garage-college-rock-noise-pop three-piece from Lansing, Michigan. Okay, so I don’t know exactly how to categorize them. But who says you need to categorize good music? As you might have guessed from the title, their sound reminds me a little of Dinosaur Jr. à la J Mascis & co., but it’s not a straight comparison by any means and I really just wanted to use the word “dinosaur” in one of my reviews.
In all seriousness, Cheap Girls have taken the chapter of angst-fueled alternative rock made popular by Dinosaur Jr., The Lemonheads, Superchunk, and other similar acts from the late ’80s and ’90s and modernized it, while still retaining some wonderful ’90s flair. Let me make this clear: this is the exact kind of band I want to be in. The sheer amount of sound generated by just three guys is pretty super impressive; energetic drums, monstrous distorted melodic guitar, and unassuming earnest vocals create the perfect recipe for a soundtrack to Windows Down Because The Weather Just Took An Amazing Turn For The Better. Which, coincidentally, is the exact environment in which I introduced myself to Cheap Girls. It’s the “power chill aesthetic,” a phrase that I just made up but that also seems to fit perfectly in this instance. It allows members Ben Graham, Ian Graham, and Adam Aymor to go as energetic as possible without sounding over-the-top or melodramatic, and it also makes you air drum voraciously in public without caring what people think.
Here’s the lead track, “Gone All Summer:”
The rest of Giant Orange maintains the same intensity put forward in “Gone,” save for a delicious acoustic version of the previously demoed song “Cored To Empty.” Lyrically, Giant Orange is a 40-minute narrative of youth and growing up, which resonates especially well with a 23-year-old like me going through postgrad problems for the first time. “Take what you can and try to fight it; we don’t need as much sleep as they think we do,” begins the album’s closer “Dim Lights.” “Right Way” is an anthem about hindsight and learning from mistakes, although it completely avoids stepping into cliché territory, which is absolutely refreshing. In fact, most of the lyrical content does a fantastic job of speaking from the heart and from experience while avoiding triteness.
I couldn’t be more pleased with this album, and as far as albums of the week go, this was an easy pick. Before you listen, be sure you’re prepared to encounter all the negative feelings you have about getting older and punch them in the face with rock and roll. And if you’re in a public space, be sure to clear out some elbow room for the cymbals. You’ve been warned.
I’m giving this album the very coveted and/or just-now-invented EFT (Every Freaking Track) Certification.
If under some weird circumstances you MADE me choose my three favorites, I’d take “Gone All Summer,” “Ruby,” and “Right Way.” But it’s all freaking awesome. Buy this album.