HORSEGIRL – ” Versions of Modern Performance ” Best Albums Of 2022

Posted: September 10, 2022 in MUSIC

Fuelled by youthful bravado and an explosive retro-futuristic sound, this young punk-rock power trio blasts the lid off your expectations with their debut, “Versions of Modern Performance”.

Since the dawn of garage rock, basements and carports across America have played host to untold thousands of high school friends looking to fulfill that insatiable need to form a band. And, of course, it’s never easy, but even when everything clicks, it’s probably safe to say that not many of them wind up getting signed to the genre-defining indie rock label Matador Records on their first try.

Dirtbag Transformation (Still Dirty)’ is a scuffed-up, guitar-driven piece of garage-pop that sea saws between discordance and fragments of melody. The track’s lyrics brim with alliteration and slanted rhymes, and as the instrumentation rises, the song rides out with a chorus of “oohs. 

It’s a fine example of the Chicago three-piece Horsegirl‘s kinetic connection and playful sense of humour their reinterpretation of noise pop follows a lineage but doesn’t ape it, it’s charmingly ramshackle, personal, and endearing.

“For us, it started purely as three teenagers who were doing it for fun,” gushes Penelope Lowenstein—at 18, the youngest member of the teenaged three-piece Horsegirl, who in the short span of three years have gone from jamming together in their parents’ basements to, this October, opening for the legendary alt-rock outfit Pavement on their much-touted reunion tour. “I don’t know how it usually happens for bands, but it was just this weird moment where suddenly we were on peoples’ radar. Eventually we recorded a bunch of demos, put them on Soundcloud, and sent them to all the labels who had become interested, and that’s how we were connected with Matador.”

There’s more to the story, but for now here’s the nitty-gritty: “Versions of Modern Performance”, Horsegirl’s debut album, is 34 minutes of voluminous sonic joy, tracked in its entirety at Steve Albini’s stalwart Electrical Audio and produced by studio vet John Agnello, whose prestigious credits include work with Dinosaur Jr.,Sonic Youth, the Dream Syndicate, and Kurt Vile, to name just a few. Lowenstein switches off on guitar, bass, and vocals with Nora Cheng. They met and cemented their friendship while taking part in the School of Rock program in their native Chicago. (Sidenote: They first played together in a cover band that featured, you guessed it, Sonic Youth songs on the setlist). Gigi Reece, Horsegirl’s drummer, joined in early 2019, bringing an instant powerhouse backbeat to the band’s sound, which surges with a psychedelic fervor that conjures tastes of the Velvet Underground and Nico, My Bloody Valentine, Stereolab, and Yo La Tengo—again, to name just a few.

“We were brought together by this shared love for the same kind of music,” says Cheng, describing how the resurgent Chicago scene, tough-to-crack but nurturing when it counted, eventually helped propel Horsegirl into the spotlight. They recorded their first single, the cavernous and hauntingly folk-tinged “Ballroom Dance Scene,” with their friends Jack Lickerman and Niko Kapetan (whose own band, Friko, has carved out a distinctive dream-pop niche).

Eventually the Chicago Tribune came calling, running a high-profile feature on Horsegirl that sparked a critical buzz. “This was after more and more bands had started popping up that seemed to share similar influences with us, or the same ethos, I guess you could call it,” Cheng observes. “I don’t know exactly how it happened, but it all turned into a very supportive, young community.”

In a sense then, “Versions of Modern Performance” is as much a reflection of the scene that elevated Horsegirl as it is the band’s full-throated statement of purpose.

From the sharp angles and resonant chords of the uptempo opener “Anti-glory” to the layers of sludge and whistling guitars in the mournful “Billy” (loosely inspired, with its E–B–E–B–E–B tuning, by the music of Nick Drake), the album conveys a warm, enveloping analog atmosphere where heavy-leaded psych rock, recombinant proto-punk, wistful indie-pop melodies, and volcanic blooms of guitar feedback all collide in a crucible of spontaneity. Infuse all that with a healthy dose of controlled chaos and the multi-coloured picture of what Horsegirl is all about begins to take shape.

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