If one event can coax this stodgy reviewer to put pen to paper, it’s improved songwriting. Twee pop girl PYNKIE’s 2020 album #37 was decent, even moving in spots. But it was also weighed down by a few misguided ideas, meandering too far into a laconic stream of consciousness for unqualified success. Let’s state up front that this male is as open to feminine indie pop as anybody, even if the genre sometimes runs too syrupy for its own good. I consider Single Gun Theory’s uber-passionate 1994 LP, Flow, River of My Soul, a gut-wrenching classic of emotional devastation. PYNKIE’s new release, Songies, blends twee, soft shoegaze, and a sharp indie-pop sensibility with the better elements of #37 to craft a remarkable step forward – one that contains some of 2023’s best moments thus far.
Even beyond the obvious headliners, female folk-pop boasts a lengthy and distinguished lineage. From prehistoric hippie divas like Fairport Convention’s Sandy Denny through more modern beats-oriented artists such as Kitty Craft, the genre has a stimulating habit of bouncing from deadly serious to blissful bubblegum and then back again. PYNKIE certainly wears her laid-back influences on her sleeve. Yet, take an extended dive into her new record, and one discovers a creative, downright exciting intensity bursting from all the songs on Songies.
PYNKIE, aka New Jersey’s Lindsey Radice, has a sweet and pining timbre that verges on childlike. Along with her understated backing chorus, she establishes a reflective yet peppy mood. Her Bandcamp liner notes promise “songs that are relatively short, sweet, and to the point… a little weird while also being very songy (i.e. the classic “verse, chorus, verse” structure, etc.)”. Right here, Radice unwittingly turns Songies’ base appeal on its head. Her knack for classic songwriting structure goes far deeper than her modesty lets on, like a romantic partner adorably unaware of how utterly cool s/he is.
The songs are indeed short. Songies clocks in at a mere 28 minutes, with 12 tracks averaging barely two minutes apiece. After the delicate intro, “Time 60bpm”, our first hint of exceptionalism comes with “Crushed Out”, a winding Carly Simon-esque lament whose bridge resembles softer 1990s Lush. Other shoegaze ingredients are slender but noticeable, as on the obsessively addictive “Spiral”. If you like classic 1970s America, try “Mutual”, which is what “Tin Man” would sound like with subdued Kitchens of Distinction guitar/synth effects thrown in. “Plz” is another winner, with Radice sighing “foreverrrrr” over a bouncy, guitar-driven beat the Three O’Clock’s Michael Quercio could have come up with 40 years ago.
Shortcomings are few. “Scared” goes too heavy on drum-machine beats and too light on melody, while the pleasant enough “Veil” is too brief to get anywhere. However, Songies is nowhere near as lightweight as the song titles or whimsical liner notes imply. This mature, intelligently constructed indie pop has some of 2023’s finest moments. Even better, the album is free on Bandcamp.com in 24-bit hi-res audio.
Seriously, Songies will not leave me alone. Give this wonderful, catchy record a listen, and we promise at least three sequences that will immediately whet your ears for more.