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.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.