August 29, 2015

Review: Infinity Girl | Harm

Reverent adherence to a musical aesthetic in the absence of terrific songwriting makes for forgettable music. It's a truism that separates the propped-up sounds of otherwise accomplished stylists from music on ephiphany-inducing records such as Harm, the towering sophomore LP from Brooklyn shoegaze titans Infinity Girl. The erstwhile Boston quartet has in the past remarkably conjured sounds reflecting a deep respect for the holy trinity of shoegaze, but were it not for Infinity Girl's inspired songcraft and the emotional immediacy of its songs, no one would be listening, and we certainly wouldn't be (figuratively) talking. However, it is not just the great songwriting that distinguishes Harm, but also the act's willingness to shed certain of shoegaze's characteristic sonic skin and experiment with weirder, harder and more compact sounds. The result is a breakout record, a modern classic.

Harm's 11 songs evidence the band's ability to make expansive, urbane music, while incorporating a classic punk urbanness and economy. Inspired at least in part by the band's shift in fits and starts southward, the record is darker, grappling with alienation and anxiety along with the expected heartache ("I'm kind of an introvert and find that I have a difficult relationship with the world and people that are close to me," fronter and guitarist Nolan Eley told Interview earlier this summer). The bending, fuzz-bass-fueled opener "Hesse" gives the album a feeling of beginning en medias res, which perhaps approximates the feeling of arriving in Brooklyn during the gestation of the record. While the sound and vibe is definitely darker, the record is certainly not all doom and gloom. The colossal -- colossal -- hit "Dirty Sun" is an addicting, upbeat rocker, despite its recitation of love gone wrong ("...navigate your arms, they are crossed, like they always are..."). And there is joy in the quick pulse and subsequent stilted thrash of "Heavy." Another important piece of Harm is the growing role of lead guitarist Kyle Oppenheimer as a songwriter and vocalist; his arresting and sweet "Young," in particular, teeters at the edge of an innocence lost, his desperate, broken-winged vocal in the final 40 seconds will raise the hair on the back of one's neck.

Giving the record the headphones treatment quickly brings into focus that the delays and reverbs that are the stock in trade of the classic shoegaze sound have been significantly tamped down. The meaner, more sculpted textures Infinity Girl presents make Harm its most sophisticated record to date, and this is perhaps nowhere more apparent than on the amazing "Locklaun." After a stuttering opening, the tune's huge sonic surges recall Nine Inch Nails' brutalist excoriation "Wish" or even certain ridiculously loud Jon Spencer guitar solos. Sebastian Modak's drumming here and across the record is caffeinated to the point of punchy, emphasizing the post-punk heart beating here. And so Harm is a next-level record that has literally taken the band to the next level. The band revealed in late spring that it had signed with San Diego-based emo powerhouse Topshelf Records for the release, which streeted Friday. With Harm, Infinity Girl has released not only a truly great record, but a defining noise-pop record, on par with monumental releases from its original Boston base of operations including Swirlies' Blonder Tongue Audio Baton and Drop Nineteens' epochal Delaware.

Harm is available on black, grey marble and clear with "black smoke" 12" vinyl -- available a la carte or as a 3-LP bundle -- and digital download; order your copy from Topshelf Records right here. Infinity Girl fĂȘte the release of Harm with two big, big rock shows, including one Sept. 5 in Boston at Great Scott with psych-rockers The New Highway Hymnal, Fiddlehead, and the highly touted Gold Muse, who we believe will be at long last making their live debut. For those of you keeping score at home, Gold Muse consists of former members of Soccer Mom, Justin Lally from pop savants Earthquake Party! (whose long, long anticipated debut long-player seems to have finally been completed), and Deb Warfield, who has logged time with scad of acts including the aforementioned Swirlies and Broken River Prophet. Additional Infinity Girl shows include the Brooklyn release show at Shea Stadium Wednesday and a date Sept. 29 at Palisades, also in Brooklyn. We've heard chatter that there will be a formal tour before the end of the year, so keep your eyes trained to the trusty Internet, where all things will be revealed unto you. Stream three preview singles from Harm via the SoundCloud embeds below, or click here to stream the whole banana over at Billbored.

Infinity Girl: Bandcamp | Facebook | Internerds | Soundcloud

Prior Infinity Girl Coverage:
That Was The Show That Was: Infinity Girl, Lubec, Guillermo Sexo, Havania Whaal | Great Scott | 9 July
Topshelf Signs Infinity Girl, Titanic Sophomore LP Harm Due Aug. 28, Hear First Single "Firehead" Now
Clicky Clicky Music Blog's Top Albums Of 2012: Jay Edition
That Was The Show That Was: Infinity Girl EP Release Show With New Highway Hymnal, Speedy Ortiz and Soccer Mom | TT The Bear's | 5 Dec.
That Was The Show That Was: Clicky Clicky Community Servings Benefit Show Thank Yous And Wrap-Up
Today's Hotness: Infinity Girl
Review: Infinity Girl | Just Like Lovers EP
Forever Now: The Infinity Girl Interview
Review: Infinity Girl | Stop Being On My Side


DanP said...

i've given only one listen thru but sounds excellent to me

DanP said...

gotta love a "brutalist excoriation"!