Album Review: Wargirl – Wargirl

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When we previously profiled Wargirl in our ‘Bad Ass Break-Out’ post, we highlighted their blending of various genres that reflected their Long Beach, CA home, creating a sound that exemplified our current diverse culture. With their self-titled debut album, the group fulfills the promise heard on their Arbolita EP with a lively and eclectic mix of songs that mine retro sounds, world influences and street vibes.

Out the gate, the band hits the dancefloor with Blondie-esque disco punk on “Poison”. As Samantha Park sings “Our love is going in the wrong direction”, the track takes on a macabre atmosphere, making it clear the song is interested in more than making you move. Things get more interesting on “Sass Girl”, which features hip-hop vocals over Afrobeat drums and lounge rock guitar riffs. Like many of the songs on the album, it makes you feel like you’ve been transported to an alternate past, where beatniks spit lyrics of modern bravado (“You know I come correct, like a grade-A sass girl”).

Singles “Mess Around” and “How You Feel” continue this vintage vibe, incorporating psychedelic soul rock, Motown horns and grooving bass lines that will time travel your mind to a plush velvet club, surrounded by Alan Ginsberg, Jimi Hendrix and Austin Powers. They’re fun meshes of classic sounds, but not as experimental as some of the other tracks on the album.

“Voice of the Mountain” and “No Difference” contain more worldly instruments and musical flourishes, relying more heavily on bongos, latin and afrocarribean beats, and even what sounds like pan flute. “No Difference” builds in intensity, ending with a blistering guitar solo that reminds listeners there is still a rock band at the heart of the group. Wargirl then move into reggae/dub territory with “Streets”, a woke call to arms similar to Santigold‘s best work, with Park proclaiming “We are going to be forever…we’re taking back your streets.” They let their music simmer more with the ska/dub “I Know I”, which bristles with tribal drums and echoing harmonics.

The influence of the multiracial, genre-bending band War becomes more and more apparent as the album moves along, creating a “duh” moment when you realize where they probably got their band name from. The conversation could possibly have gone, “We’re like War, but with women in the band – I know, Wargirl!” This is meant completely as a compliment, as there have been few bands that have been able to recapture the best elements of that band, while also keeping the song structures contained instead of simply sounding like a jam band that listened to too much Bob Marley.

Wargirl manages to feel cohesive throughout despite the numerous far reaching elements. While it teases listeners with high-intensity rhythms on ender “Last Time”, where the percussion grows into a fast and furious rave-up towards the end, Wargirl is mostly a moody affair, with songs that roll along to create a vivid atmosphere more than a riot. While another uptempo track or two could definitely have been used, the overall collection is still an audible feast that will grow on discerning listeners who appreciate music that layers sound palettes and reaches for more than simple pop formulas.

The full album comes out this Friday. You can hear the two pre-released singles below:

“How You Feel”

“Mess Around”

 

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