Women – Public Strain
Label: Flemish Eye (Canada) / Jagjaguwar (US)
The hometown of a band and the geographical location of the recording studio evidently permeates through numerous records – Turn on the Bright Lights by Interpol showcased the boisterous and brooding qualities of NYC. Through the grime came an exceptionally poignant, bold and evocative album. The dark winter of Alberta, Canada allowed Women to record their second album Public Strain during the relentless cold, yet it’s served to exude a honed sound and sensibility instead of an overtly calculated follow-up. Public Strain uses the alternating rise and fall of drones with shimmering guitars and emphatic percussion to create a criminally understated album that builds and progresses upon the self-titled debut.
Ominous bowed-guitar screeches open the album with ‘Can’t You See’, a gently lilting portion of reverb drenched, lo-fi hum. While the mood is markedly more subdued to the agitated upbeat ‘Cameras’ off the self-titled debut, a distinct undercurrent of unease remains present – owing to the dedication of Women to the album listening experience. Lead vocalist and guitarist Patrick Flegel croons with a couplet that describes the newfound territory for the listener and artist – “Not so sure I’ve seen this place before / Can’t you see? Can’t you see?”
Admittedly, few of the lyrics are decipherable on the album, but it’s this deliberate obscurity that heightens their impact. Similarly, the driving beat of ‘China Steps’ allows for groove to give way to thrash, with both aspects fusing, providing one of the standout moments in an exceptionally solid album. It’s ‘Eyesore’ though that closes out the record with a demonstration of tight rhythm and arpeggiated guitars to provide the pinnacle. Leaving the best ‘til last shows a certain amount of audacity, but it primarily highlights the faith the quartet have in this record as a whole and the songs.
A willingness to forego the clichés of pop-song structure and a desire to experiment with alternately brash and swooning guitar sounds defines the bold sophomore release. Public Strain uses just the right amount of haphazard explorations into a noisy oblivion and delicately intertwined counterpoints to provide us with one of the best of 2010.