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The Rise of Horsegirl

By Shelly Ridenour |

Discover more about the eclectic debut from the young band Horsegirl that won them a Qobuzissime award!

As great as the latest wave of '90s nostalgia, especially by young female artists, is, a lot of it tends toward the lo-fi bedroom vibe. Horsegirl, however, has surprising muscle, heft and depth. This is even more incredible when you realize the members are so young that one is only just graduating from high school not long after their debut album arrives. The Chicago trio—formed out of School of Rock classes—knows their stuff: They reportedly cite My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth (including Kim Gordon's memoir, Girl in a Band) and the documentary 1991: The Year Punk Broke as influences that brought them together, and they chose to work with legendary indie-rock producer John Agnello, known for his work with Dinosaur Jr., The Breeders and Kurt Vile. But all that name-dropping would mean nothing if they didn't have the chops to back it up. And these three definitely do.

It's evident from the dreamy drone of opener Anti-Glory, with Nora Cheng's measured, almost droll delivery—not unlike Paul Banks of Interpol—getting a jolt of energy from the spiky, sparky call of "Dance dance dance with me!" She deadpans like Kim Gordon on the clever Billy ("Billy recounts all the time he spent on counting change/ The changes that he never made will make him wish he stayed and prayed"). That giddy-noise song came about, the band has said, because Penelope Lowenstein (the trio's other guitarist/vocalist) had been reading about Nick Drake's alternate guitar tunings and they'd been listening to old Flying Nun releases. It's fascinating to hear the band discover history. "You're just like honey and heaven, too," goes love song World of Pots and Pans, referencing the Jesus and Mary Chain and the Cure (or maybe the Dinosaur Jr. cover) in one breath. Then they flip a Gang of Four lyric on its head: "Sometimes I'm thinking that I lust you/ But I know it's only love." (The title is inspired by a misheard Television Personalities lyric.)

Both Option 8 and the shoegazey Beautiful Song can trace their roots to Dinosaur Jr.'s swirling guitars, while the excellent Dirtbag Transformation (Still Dirty)—and its rumbling, rolling drums from Gigi Reece—recalls Bettie Serveert, only with Lowenstein and Cheng's voices hypnotically intertwining. The Fall of Horsegirl feels feverish, while Live and Ski is ramshackle in the best way. There are great Instrumentals, too: Bog Bog 1 is like being in a dream haze, while Electrolocation 2 sounds oceanic: a moody undertow pulling you beneath the surface.

LISTEN TO 'VERSIONS OF MODERN PERFORMANCE' BY HORSEGIRL NOW ON QOBUZ