Adding another tally mark to the growing list of great bands that call San Francisco home, the all-girl Golden Gate garage group (inadvertent alliteration, I promise) composed of Hannah Lew, Raven Mahon, and Lillian Maring — aka Grass Widow — are the latest to invade my auditory canal. With some kick-ass tunes that will draw the inevitable comparisons to recently broken-up British alt. rockers Electrelane from some people (myself included), this trio of talented musicians are already making splashes outside their hometown. With a debut LP (whose cover looks a bit familiar), a 12” EP on label-of-the-year candidate Captured Tracks, and a couple of East/West Coast tours under their belt, they have already started building up a groundswell which, in my opinion, will lead to a big breaking-out moment in 2010.
Now I haven’t received a copy of their EP yet and I’ve only just recently purchased their full-length, but even with such little exposure to their music they have already won me over. Their debut, released on Make A Mess Records, is composed of nine-tracks of some of the best art-punk in recent memory.
The record opens strongly with “To Where” which features the three girls combining their forces vocally to create intricate harmonies while fast-paced finger picking bass (courtesy of Ms. Lew) bounces effortlessly around, giving the song the necessary locomotion. Thinking that you may have hit a ballad with their third track “Green Screen”, the song swiftly transitions from a capella to full-steam-ahead melodic rock — reminiscent of Electrelane’s “Bells” — in a span of a couple of measures. The A-side closes with the instrumental “Long Walk to the Beach” which, at times, could be the soundtrack to any video game that features a hero vs. boss level.
The B-side keeps up its share of the bargain by continuing the lo-fi garage punk feel established by its A counterpoint — showcasing spidery guitars on the waltz-y “Time Could Bend” and Le Tigre-like shouts (a la “What’s Yr Take On Cassavetes”) on “Cut It Out”. The record closes out with “Rattled Call”, which is arguably my album highlight. Rapidly switching between dreamy dulcet vocals and neck-breaking moshable percussion, the song is sure to keep you on your toes with every listen.
To give you a sample of what Grass Widow is all about, you can listen to an mp3 of “Green Screen” and, if you like what you hear, you can buy the record digitally from the website (unfortunately, the vinyl is sold out). Also, if you live in Portland, they will be playing The Artistry on January 7.