Photo: James Michael Juarez / SWEISS PR

SadGirl Creates an Irresistible Southern California Soundtrack with ‘Water’

On their debut full-length album, L.A.-based SadGirl combine indie rock with plenty of timeless, old-school soul-pop touchstones.

Suicide Squeeze
14 June 2019

The impression one gets from hearing Water, the debut LP from L.A.’s SadGirl, is that of a low-key yet earnest bar band in a nightclub featured in a David Lynch film. Their music has a classic sound, but it’s too idiosyncratic to be confused with the soul and doo-wop artists they admire. That sort of “dark soul” sets them apart from just about anything else you’re bound to hear out of Los Angeles – or anywhere else, for that matter.

With Water, SadGirl – guitarist/vocalist Misha Lindes, bassist Dakota Peterson, and drummer David Ruiz – create an atmosphere that invites slow dances and strong, exotic drinks. Listening to the album, the listener is transported to another time and place. From the very beginning, when Lindes’ reverb-soaked tropical guitar ushers in cheesy organ chords and a lilting waltz tempo on “The Ocean”, the atmosphere is seductive and intoxicating. “I feel like the ocean,” Lindes sings. “I feel like the tide / I require devotion / I cannot provide.” The aquatic theme that runs throughout the album touches on love, sadness, and heartbreak: all part and parcel of pop music scene-setting.

While it may be odd to see a trio of young men from California kneeling at the altar of Sam Cooke, that’s exactly what Water provides – an indie outfit devoted to the concept of classic, heart-on-the-sleeve soul, but with an inexplicably modern sensibility. The piano-led “Chlorine” is a crooner’s delight lifted up by a gorgeous horn arrangement. The instrumentation throughout the album provides plenty of welcome surprises, from the McCartney-esque bass lines and brief, soulful guitar solo noodling on “Little Queenie” to the almost comically distorted guitar break on the strikingly direct “Miss Me”.

A trio of instrumental tracks are sprinkled throughout Water, beginning with the gentle, sparse groove of “Hazelnut Coffee” and continuing with the slow-motion surf music crash of “Mullholland” (with slashing, haunting chords that seem to be a nod to Link Wray’s “Rumble”) and the exotic, dreamy balladry of “Avalon”. But as sumptuous and atmospheric as these episodes can be, Lindes’ voice is always a welcome component of the rest of the album’s tracks.

Water closes with the straightforward, wistful title track. “Water doesn’t quench my thirst the way it used to,” Lindes sings. “Every day feels like the last.” That sad sense of longing may be a common thread throughout this truly striking album, but the bold and refreshing instrumentation and arrangements are a bright, hopeful antidote to anyone craving exciting new music. Or, in this case, a tall, refreshing drink.

RATING 7 / 10