By Nathan Pavolko
Over a few years, shoegaze has continued to fuel my musical flame. Refining my love for the chaos in noise and the elegant melodies shimmering through your mind like a mirage. Throughout this time I’ve heard many bands miss the mark, creating a slow sludgy ball of noise with too subtle of elements to grab hold of. Yet through the garbage, I have also come across some hidden gems that absolutely knock it out of the park. Infinity Girl’s newest release, Harm, is among these well crafted gems, reinvigorating the classic shoegaze we know and love with unconventional writing and blasts of post punk energy.
The sophomore LP starts off with "Hesse," a calm ethereal synth glistening in the sun then quickly shattered by a noisy lead from the guitar. Syncopated drums and a punchy bass propel the song forward, while layers of distortion bend to the bands will as multiple guitar lines play over top of each other. Hushed vocals breeze over the chaotic song with a sparse melody, creating a striking balance of playfulness and tension. "Hesse" will keep you on your toes with its sudden change ups and well choreographed guitar. Surging synth and a patter of the drums lay the grounds for the song "Firehead." A wall of over-driven strings fill the void making just enough room for a great vocal pop hook.
"Locklaun," the next rocker on the LP, follows in the footsteps of The Pixies in a loud, quiet, loud fashion. Big sliding bass dances a tight groove around the crashing drums. The twisted metal and winding strings of the rhythm guitar makes this song for me. Infinity Girl have a real knack for creating abstract guitar tones and/or riffs; it's really impressive. "Locklaun" makes for an enjoyable segue while Harm changes gears to a slower tempo, fleshing out their pop experiments throughout the whole midsection of the album. This is where Infinity Girl really shines, showing they not only have the chops for noise rockers but also dream pop, while taming the madness of their guitars for the time being and focusing on lighter elements.
The song "Hold," one of my favorites, has a drunken stumble to all the instruments. This makes a pulling sensation with the guitar lazily playing an awkward melody, the bass playing a bouncy walk, and the drums spread thin. The vocals mumble a follow up melody to the bass, spouting great lines such as: “So let me open up your head // Crack it open like an egg // Your scrambled thoughts concern me // Is what you mean what you say?”. I like to think they all got drunk and recorded this song, and if that is the case, I’m adding "Hold" to drunk nights playlist.
The next two songs "Not Man" and "Liner" feel like one long song split into separate tracks, given how they transition into each other so beautifully and have similar grooving bass lines. "Not Man" has a very 80’s pop sound using a whimsical synth tone over top the crunch of the over-driven bass. And let me tell you: that bass is massive; that's one hell of a groove. "Liner" continues the story with a more subtle approach, dialing back the bass and synth letting the guitar play a jangle melody. Kicking the pace up a notch with a driving rhythm section in "Heavy," a tension-filled guitar builds the song to an epic chorus, beating the song senseless with its pounding ferocity.
Both "Dirty Sun" and their single "Young" are fun upbeat tunes, the most pop heavy of the album. "Dirty Sun" has a wonderfully bright 90’s pop punk vibe, as if Sufjan Stevens sang for Sebadoh. An odd mix to think about, I know, but please entertain that idea while listening to it. "Young" is a beautiful anthem with a soaring guitar and lively bass. Bellowing out “We're still young!” with the band is sure to have you raise your glass, making for a great party song. Finishing off the album in true shoegaze fashion is two noisy tracks: "Musei" and "Around Me." The songs exhale shimmering reverb soaked guitar and a British pop sensibility similar to an early My Bloody Valentine.
Harm is an album that never stopped surprising me. Each song has its own refreshing spin to a classic shoegazers passive-aggressive dream. I found the songwriting to be especially clever, harnessing the distortion and feedback in ways to make it musical. I can already tell this album will be stuck on my turntable for a long time. I'm thoroughly impressed with Infinity Girl and their sophomore LP Harm, released on the wonderful Top Shelf Records. For fans of The Grooms and My Bloody Valentine, check out this up-and-coming band!