Using the possessive ‘our’ in reference to a person or thing suggests a sincere fondness on the one hand, yet it potentially smacks of proprietorial clinginess. Both ends of the loving behavioural spectrum are explored on the debut album by Our Girl, Stranger Today. Devotion provides the adhesive that binds the songs most strongly, leading to anything from, “I like living in your world” to “You make my head hurt.”
Soph Nathan played an integral part in the irresistible grandeur of The Big Moon in 2017. To see the quartet live, you’d know her as the intense-looking one, stage left, engrossed in what she’s doing with the permanent smile of someone looking like she’s doing what she’s meant to do. In Our Girl, she gravitates from backing vocals and the status of ‘third most likely to speak’ to take centre stage and lead vocals with mildly-unnerving magnetism. In doing so, she’s only gone and planted a ruddy great flag on the musical landscape of 2018 too.
The whole giddy helter-skelter gathers swirling momentum with the eponymous ‘Our Girl’. It’s a high-impact C86-meets-circa-1995, Sarah-Records-meets-Geffen-Records twee-pop-thrash about the frustrations of someone who really needs to let their emotions show – “Don’t be so nice” the best advice for suffering stoics. Track two, ‘Being Around’, further brings the noise, as we are thoroughly guitarred-and-feathered. “I can feel it taking shape,” is an apt lyric for how the album, even after two tracks, carries pleasant traces of Elastica, Suede, The Breeders and the better bits of the often-maligned Sleeper.
In the same manner that the Orielles’ 2018 debut album gives every inkling of a close-knit trio having a damn good time, these three friends, who literally got their act together in Brighton, clearly get each other. Josh Tyler’s bass and Lauren Wilson’s drums frequently give you the sandpaper exfoliation treatment, as Soph screams on the explosive and cathartic ‘Josephine’. ‘Two Life’ ‘Level’ and album closer, ‘Boring’ have some sustained, distorted, impassioned walls of sound, like early Radiohead mixed with My Bloody Valentine. ‘Boring’ is not only an album closer, but it’s a prime candidate for shutting down a live set, complete with stirring climax and the concluding sound, seemingly of a guitar left against a speaker.
They can soothe and uplift, as on ‘I Really Like It’, deliver brooding melancholy on ‘I Wish It Was Sunday’ and take it right down to lonely longing with Jeff Buckley leanings on ‘Heat’, the crisp, stark guitar sounding very much like Johnny Marr’s on ‘Back To The Old House.’ The album was recorded over a week at Eve Studios in Stockport with Bill Ryder-Jones, who apparently fitted the group dynamic so well that he became an unofficial fourth member of the band. That doesn’t come as a surprise when you consider how well it’s all come together.
It also wouldn’t be surprising in the least if Our Girl’s debut album makes you feel stranger today, with the fluttery, stomach-lurching thrill of falling in love. A stranger today could so easily become a new friend tomorrow. That’s surely going to be how your relationship develops with this fine creation.
Stranger Today is out now on Cannibal Hymns.