Girls Names originated in Belfast, Ireland in 2009 and released their debut album, Dead to Me in 2011, a huge success (in my heart, that is). In 2013 they released the airy, dream-like album The New Life, and now just recently their third album, Arms Around a Vision.
As a whole, Arms Around a Vision has a very coherent style and emotion attached to this sound. Many of the songs are punctuated by darker electronic intros and dysmorphic drum beats, followed by a brighter chorus that pulls you out of the cavernous melancholy echoes. It evokes a very specific feeling of time passing slowly in the expanses of your subconscious and conscious, sometimes moving along miserably, other times just moving. The two instrumental interludes, “Obsession” and “Convalescence” are capable of conjuring images unique to each listener; I cannot help but be reminded of a recurring dream I have in which a somewhat terrifying sensation of noise and aggression builds and builds against my will, set off by a chain reaction, until it suddenly dies, leaving me with a peace more calm than ever. The first song of the album, “Reticence” succeeds in creating a escalating tension of instrumental sounds that is relieved by a dramatically hopefully vocal debut, like a sudden opening of the curtains on a bright mourning that sends rays of sunlight streaming into the room. “Dysmorphia” stays in the realm of darkness but has enough tempo to give a sense of power in fighting the sense of psychological isolation to which this whole album seems to be in reference.
What this album has in coherence of thought, however, it lacks in direction. Rather, several of the songs, such as “Chrome Rose” and “Malaga” seem to begin in a direction towards something, but never reach a destination. The result is that upon the first few listens, or even the first several listens, the songs tend to blend together without distinction, creating an amorphous collective of echoey vocals and obscured electronica that can be un-captivating. The majority of the songs lack emotional ups and downs, and there are no pivotal shifts in the album which are critical for creating a memorable impression on the listeners. In “Chrome Rose” things start off well with a dramatic drop introducing the vocals, but then carry on blandly for a few more minutes and obscure into the next song. It feels as if Girls Names, in their efforts to take you into their abstract dark dream-land, have forgotten that they must first hook your interest with musical appeal in order do so.
Overall, this album certainly succeeds in creating a refined mood. It is not, however, a piece that will easily catch your interest at first nor will it endure as a memorable work.