Charly Bliss: Guppy

Guppy is a special release, proving that all you need is 30 minutes of hooks and riffs sung by a voice familiar the first time you hear it.

Charly Bliss


Label: Barsuk
US Release Date: 2017-04-21

There’s are two moments on Lana Del Rey’s new collaboration with the Weeknd, “Lust for Life”, in which both, individually, paraphrase the closing line of William Ernest Henley’s poem “Invictus”: “We’re the captains of our own souls.” They take “souls” and stretch the word, taking a rollercoaster-esque approach to singing, slowly reaching higher notes before a precipitous drop on the last syllable. Few artists can tap into such adrenaline-inducing melodies with meaningful lyrics to match, and over a full-length album, it’s even rarer. New York power pop band Charly Bliss have had their debut full-length Guppy in the works for years now, but now that it’s out, the aforementioned qualities are plastered all over the ten songs, inscribing hooks into your brain while inspiring jubilant dancing. In short, it’s the most fun album released thus far in 2017, ultimately legitimizing the multiple exclamations marks some lines in the lyrics booklet got and then some.

This year has been positively bountiful for bouncy pop-rock with motion -- just see Diet Cig’s debut and White Reaper’s latest as two examples -- and Guppy doesn’t let up on the trend. However, while the similarities with these bands and noted touchstones like Weezer are apparent in their frenetic honesty and undeniable riffs, the band that I keep returning to, listen upon listen (and there have been many such listens already) is the Strokes. Specifically, the Strokes circa-Is This It?, when they were a small discography band with intense hype that managed to make good on it and then some, crafting the defining rock album for a generation of New Yorkers. It’s too early to proclaim Guppy as that distinctive of a release, but for the younger half of millennials, there has yet to be an album that so perfectly captures our experience like the Strokes did their demographic nearly two decades ago.

Case in point, a Census report was released on April 19 that noted the difficulties in millennials’ transitioning into stable adulthood. An NBC News article about the report interviewed a 21-year-old“‘stuck’ working as a manager at a fast-food restaurant”. On Guppy, a punishment doled out to frontwoman Eva Hendricks for some love-induced cruelty is “end[ing] up working at Dairy Queen”. The prospect itself as a long-term job is itself not appealing, but the way that Hendricks delivers that final line of the hook, you can hear her resigned sigh. Her early interest in musical theatre can be found in these voice inflections all over the album, molding her sonic grin into the emotional rainbow.

And yet for as good as it sounds -- and it sounds as perfectly imperfect as the best indie-adjacent releases are supposed to, thanks to the steady hand of drummer Sam Hendricks (Eva’s older brother), the addictive riffs of guitarist Spencer Fox, and the tying-the-room-together undercurrent of bass from Dan Shure, not to mention the engineering and mixing work done by Kyle Johnson -- the lyrics are just as much of a draw. Eva Hendricks has that rare quality of knowing what her voice is in both the written and spoken forms, and this marriage usually only is forged through decades of experience. Just look at how she opens the album: “C’mon baby, get me high / There’s always something new to buy / I cry all the time / I think that it’s cool / I’m in touch with my feelings / I have always loved the door / But I will always love you more / I love metaphors / Swimming in your pool, I am pregnant with meaning." The arrogant malaise of Julian Casablancas is transformed into just-the-right-amount-of-earnestness, and the effect is just as flooring.

Each of the ten songs contains extensive quotables like the one above, made even better by the churning instruments under Hendricks. “Am I the best? / Or just the first person to say ‘Yes’?” is a gut-punch of a couplet in and of itself, but given the recent Tinder data suggesting a trend towards looking for love, it’s the type of sentiment young people entering the milestone phase of their life know all too well. “Julia” closes the album with an ambiguity similar to the way Sufjan Stevens opened The Age of Adz, and “Sad-sack, smell of weed / Now I only see you when I need to fall asleep” creates a middle that needs no explanation.

Guppy is a special release. It has powers: the power to transport you back to some of your most formative experiences, but also the power to let you know that you’re nowhere near done having them yet. That the best happened, and the best is yet to come. That being alive is confusing and irritating, and sometimes it’s better to be alone except for when it’s all-too-clear that being together is as beautiful as life gets; that there is a meaning of life and you’re going to find it. That all you need is thirty minutes of hooks and riffs sung by a voice familiar the first time you hear it. That exactly what you need is 30 minutes of hooks and riffs sung by a voice familiar the first time you hear it.






A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.