Lo-fi has never sounded this ambitious.
Josh McIntyre, the man behind Little Girls, certainly knows how to avoid letting his songs be contained. On Concepts, the debut full-length from Little Girls, McIntyre’s 11 ambitious tracks crawl, leap, and piss all over pre-conceived notions of what one man with a penchant for murky lo-fi madness can do. He utiliizes fuzzy vocals, invasive beats, loopy riffs, and even a sample or two to make a compelling record that has generated a lot of buzz recently, and rightfully so. It’s tough to imagine My Bloody Valentine sounding any more urgent than they already did, but if it seems possible to you, then McIntyre and Concepts might be the archetype of your dreams.
Never do we fully hear what McIntyre is singing about on Concepts, but the vague insistency of his vocals is strangely compelling. For all we know, “Thrills”, the up and down tripped-out rocker with an incessantly groovy hook, could be about the plight of a janitor in southern Scotland. But we never get a clear idea, and its a constant search within the creases and folds of Concepts that keeps listeners coming back for more. It’s a decidedly haunting listen, but more often than not, the freaky turns that Concepts employs are oddly comforting.
“Venom” features some of McIntyre’s more ambitious guitar noodling, but the catchy baseline drags the track out of a brooding, complex underworld and onto the floor of a sweaty, after-hours club to be enjoyed by the masses. Perhaps that sort of mass appeal wasn’t McIntyre’s goal on Concepts, but he’s done a remarkable job of making pounding post-rock seem heady enough to be, well, cool.
While the aforementioned tracks are groovy and memorable and all, Concepts will remain a truly memorable listen because of its cohesiveness. Each track bleeds into one another, haunting together with a hip sort of pace and sustenance. While a little more droney and a lot less loud, the forceful dexterity of Concepts finds itself on the same page as Exploding Head, the 2009 release from loud-ass rockers A Place to Bury Strangers. It’s a tour pairing that would make for a memorable night of music.
As cohesive as Concepts is, the repetitiveness of the droney guitars and pounding bass can come off as a bit sparse, mechanic, and even boring at times. The record lulls, if ever so slightly, in its mid-section. It’ll take more than a few listens to distinguish the 11 tracks from each other. What’s more, Concepts is so full of grooved out, noise-heavy post-rock lacking much in the way of dissonance that it quickly becomes a mood record. These are not songs for sunny days; Concepts is not a terribly versatile listen.
Yet the beauty of Concepts is not how well it would work on a road-trip, dingy bar, or a picnic alike. Its strength lies in its uncompromising sonic language. McIntyre’s vision is tangible and ends on a graceful note, with as bouncy a track as Little Girls seems capable of. Album closer "Growing" wastes little time in showing its optimistic and enlightened side. It's rather coincedental -- as bleak as Concepts may seem at times, the furious sonic output McIntyre delivers will surely leave listeners feeling enlightened and somewhat optimistic.