Our Girl - Stranger Today
"I forget that other people haven't been in my head..."
The cultural mecca of Brighton can add another promising band to its arsenal. Our Girl, the three piece indie-rock band from the UK, released their debut album Stranger Today, a compelling record filled with strong ideas and piles of potential moving forward. Formed in 2014, Guitarist/singer Soph Nathan, bassist Josh Tyler and drummer Lauren Wilson neatly package 45 minutes of succinct rock songs on the record.
There is nothing overly flashy or needlessly frilly on Stranger Today, instead the trio relies on expert songwriting, spatterings of earworms, and the perfect intuition of when to break out of the classic musical mold to reach for more. Channeling her inner Victoria Legrand, Soph Nathan hits on the major indie-rock food groups. Love, loss, feeling out of place, relationships, and more. Her voice has an effortless weight to it, but she's able to add a deeper grunge when the time is right.
The first two tracks of the album set the stage, similar offerings of big, bright choruses intertwined with striped back verses and some fun with pauses here and there. It's a tightrope walk to be sure, as such simplicity can lose one's attention quickly. However, Our Girl has found the magic formula in keeping the listener acutely engaged, pushing each song forward with a masterful energy and knack for melodies.
"In My Head" is an example of just that, an extremely straight-forward guitar riff with a nothing-fancy drum pattern. It works. The band is always adding, layering, and building on a simple riff into a larger and larger being throughout the album. The tune speeds up, the distortion grows and engulfs the main riff, and it becomes downright hypnotizing.
The art of songs gathering momentum is littered all over Stranger Today. "I Really Like It" and "Two Life" both slowly build upon crunchy distorted riffs, and explode into a cathartic and psychedelic experience, especially on "Two Life", where the band breaks into wailing guitars lathered up with pedals and distortion, the heaviest moment on the entire album and the most fun.
Seven tracks in, the true gem of the album emerges. "Levels" is everything Our Girl does right. Nathan has an absolute gift for writing vocal melodies, and she really explores this skill here. We begin with a lovely, clean guitar riff with easy strumming that slowly picks up. Carefully planted halfway through the song, the lyric with the album's title is sung, "I told a stranger today, sat cold on a level." The band joins Nathan after a verse/chorus/verse/chorus and everything comes together perfectly.
Listen to "Levels"
The closer, "Boring" is a fitting end to Stranger Today. Jam-packed with a ton of clever riffs and lyrics, the song slowly shifts in emotion by piecing together economical and nuanced guitar work. The vocals bring it all together, and the song reaches a natural climax.
They make it look and sound easy.
Before the album comes to a close, Our Girl once more cranks the guitars up and jams to a psychedelic, shoe-gaze euphoria. Always building, always layering, always adding something new for the ears.
There's always a little something extra on each song on Stranger Today, and while there may not be anything groundbreaking throughout, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Undoubtedly, there are a few moments that wander a bit too far from their capabilities and a few ideas that are stretched a bit too thin. But, these moments are heavily outweighed by the constant stream of subtle songwriting, patiently built energy, captivating vocals, and catchy as hell melodies. An impressive debut from the trio, and an exciting future ahead.