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on September 13, 2011
The name of this San Francisco band pretty much consolidates every traditional pop song down to its root cause.

The band takes pop roots and branches them out, sometimes elevating them to heavy-metal heights and acid-rock lengths, as on the sprawling "Die," which contains the lines, giddily voiced, "None of us is gonna be just fine / No, we're all going straight to hell tonight."

At other times, band mates Christopher Owens and JR White (with three new members added for Girls' second release) settle into hypnotic, lo-fi splendor, as on the sunny, yet shady "Alex," with lead singer Owens mumbling his lines in a drug-addled manner. Or the down-tempo, blues-rocker "How Can I Say I Love You," with its bittersweet message, "How can I say I need you? ... how can I say I want you? ... now that you've said everything I said to you / To somebody new?"

To be sure, "Father, Son, Holy Ghost," so named to illustrate the spiritual kinship Girls feels toward music, employs a variety of moods.

The album kicks off with the psych-surf "Honey Bunny," bouncy and strange like Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd. The roiling, rollicking "Vomit" moves from ominous to dewy-eyed in the space of a few minutes. The bulk of the songs are backed by a three-piece gospel choir, a key ingredient that unifies the frantic mix.

Toward the end is the album's shining highlight, "Forgiveness," a slow-cooker about letting go of deep grudges before they tear you apart, with its woozy keys, crisp acoustic guitar and bellowing bass drum. A bleary Owens croaks, "No one's gonna find any answers / If you're just trying to hide / From the things you know inside / Are the truth," the eight-minute spectacle eventually boiling over into a fury of white-hot licks and percussive thunder.

There is definitely something magic going on here (and not just the track called "Magic"). "Holy Ghost" is an adventure inside a rock 'n' roll Bizarro World. It feels as if this is music that's been put to wax before -- there's that deja-vu tingle -- but the riffs and melodies are slightly off balance, like a chair at the local coffee shop. The tightly wound, gritty, almost claustrophobic sensation that permeates "Holy Ghost" comes from Girls' intentional choice to record it in a small, concrete studio in the heart of the Tenderloin.

That decision in itself may be a bit of nostalgia for Owens, a one-time member of the Children of God (now scarily rebranded as the less conspicuous Family International), who lived on the streets of San Francisco for a time after leaving the religious cult at the age of 16. Owens is graced with an unsuspectingly powerful voice. It creeps along for a while, but by the fourth song, he opens up and takes charge. Owens is particularly affecting on "My Ma," a feverish ode to his lost childhood, and a family with which he now must be completely at odds. His voice cracks with raw emotion as he sings, "Oh God, I'm tired / And my heart is broken / It's so hard to feel so all alone / And so far, so far away from home."

"Holy Ghost" is a weighty, existential affair. As such, it will never translate to the fresh-faced, overly overt, Day-Glo dance floor that is today's pop landscape. But for those who prefer meals, not snacks, "Holy Ghost" is the kind of album that gently gets under your skin and stays there. It's easily one of the most original releases of the year.
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on September 17, 2011
The lead review on here sums the album up very well. It's an immaculately produced, diverse collection of songs that show off the songwriting talents of Christopher Owens (apparent on their quality debut, Album) and newfound chops and power as a band. This is one of those albums that is solid all the way through, and many of the songs reveal new highlights with repeated listens. The Floyd-ian "Vomit," "Forgiveness," and "My Ma" are probably the album's highlights, but it also features a handful of great songs on the undercard (the perfect indie rock of "Alex," the crunching guitars on "Die," the jazzy swing of "Love Like a River"). If you like this, check out the band's other releases - Album and Broken Dreams Club are both worthwhile purchases.

This has jumped into the lead of my "album of the year" race after heavy rotation over the past two weeks. I keep going back to it - it's addicting.
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on September 22, 2011
I have heard of Girls in the past, but never bothered with a full album before "Father, Son, Holy Ghost". I'm kicking myself now because I can't believe I missed this group on their debut. There is something at once familiar, and yet utterly fresh and infectious about the songs on this record. Musical revisionism is nothing new, but like another recent favourite of mine, Ariel Pink, the band mix enough love and new ideas together with the old to make the whole thing come alive.

The reviews before this one do a much better job of explaining its virtues than I can, but suffice to say this is a must listen album for anyone who considers themself a fan of modern pop/rock.
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Girls, a band consisting of just two guys--and no girls--pretty much came out of nowhere with their excellent 2009 debut album, simply called "Album". Even more amazing was the significant splash that album made, well received by the critics and indie-music fans alike. After releasing a stop-gap 6 track EP in late 2010, now finally comes the band's second full-length studio release.

"Father, Son, Holy Ghosts" (11 tracks; 53 min.) starts off with an innocent sounding "Honey Bunny", although it is immediately clear that the production on here is much more polished than the debut album ever was. "Die" provides the first true head-scratcher, it's a classic rock song coming from somewhere around 1976, period. The dreamy ballad "My Ma" continues along that same classic-rock pattern. As does "Vomit"! By the time we get to the 8 min. jam-out that is "Forgiveness", I am quite confused by this all. Is this the same band that brought us "Album"? Not that this music is not good, but this album is a significant departure from the early sound. Seemingly gone is the early eccentricity, and polished power songs are the way to go now.

I've had this album over 2 months, and simply held off reviewing this, as conflicted as I was/am over this album. Again, this is not a bad album per se, but it takes quite a few spins to get comfortable with the idea that this is Girls. Still haven't had a chance to see this band in concert. I can only imagine they'd bring a number of guests with them to play these songs in a live setting. Maybe even a few girls. Meanwhile, if you loved "Album", beware, this album may or may not be your cup of tea.
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on November 2, 2011
if you like classic rock and roll music download "My Ma". If you hear all the influences in this song then you sould buy the album. Beatles, Floyd, Dinosaur Jr.? Pavement? I dont' know, its so well done it just sounds "classic" already.
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on January 9, 2012
But as much as I try I can't even put this in the same category as the first album. The first album was incredible, with every song pretty much being perfect.

So when I first heard this album and was disappointed I thought I was being a jerk. There was something I didn't like about the production. And while I wanted to appreciate the new direction the vocals take I was a little dubious.

I spent two months playing this album every week. I'm still not really getting in to it. Vomit is good but just seems to go on and on and on. Honey Bunny is nice but doesn't jump out at me. I know I'm supposed to appreciate how they're mixing in a cool, hard rock-deep purple-esque song with Die but for all the force in the guitar the vocals seem to undercut that tension for me.

I'm sure I'll get a few dis-agrees here and maybe I deserve it. But whereas Album was album of the year for me in 2009, this didn't even make my top 20 this year.

Maybe I'll see them live and love it. They're touring with Real Estate and King Krule right now which would be an incredible show to catch!
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on November 6, 2011
How rare and refreshing these days: Not pop, not grunge, not rap. Just... plain old rock. But a rock album that is very well witten and extremely well played and performed. Traces of various influences are detectable but the sound is uniquely their own. Not too hard, but not ballads either. Definitely give this CD a try. You'll be very glad you did.
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on October 10, 2011
Girls frontman Christopher Owens is a true gem in the indie rock world - not because of his back story in the Children of God, or his drug use, or his personal life, but because he's great at what he does - making songs. Although the songs stand on their own, it's true that knowing details from Owens' life make them more interesting. For instance, he and Chet "JR" White used to play the riff from track 3 ("Die") on opiates over and over again until one of them fell asleep. The track "Vomit" is about an ex-girlfriend and comes from a verse in Proverbs that goes "A fool returns to his folly like a dog to his vomit." "My Ma" is a heartfelt ballad about Owens' complicated relationship with his mother. The closer "Jamie Marie" is a delicate dedication to a girl he left behind in Amarillo, TX when he moved to San Francisco. Owens' honesty in songwriting is both disarming and refreshing in an era of rock that seems so eager to prove it's too cool for you.

The music is also excellent on this album. There are really good guitar solos, well-placed backing vocals, and an affecting song progression that balances serious, lighthearted, humorous, and reverent. The production is excellent and Owens' vocals are surprisingly good. Regardless of how he comes across, Owens is an overachiever, and it shows through on this album. Father, Son, Holy Ghost has a timeless appeal that will endure and may even grow long after most of the other albums of 2011 are forgotten.
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on January 6, 2012
Listening to a lot of what constitutes indie rock can be an exercise in frustration when I'm looking for new sounds. So many bands borrow so heavily from different sources that it's hard for me to figure out where the line stops between irony and sincere homage to past eras. Girls, whose first album was refreshing to me for feeling far removed from the new wave and electro of many of their contemporaries is a band who create very somber and heartfelt songs that never quite reach the histrionic depths of what one would normally consider a ballad or love song, and for this I give them a lot of credit. I imagine it's hard to write songs like these. Ones that touch upon love, heartbreak, general sadness and other parts of our human condition without going into emotional overdrive with the vocalizing.

A lot has been said of Chris Owen's talent for capturing the essence of 60's pop songs, but there's far more to the heart of this record than repeating past triumphs. There's less emphasis on the peppiness that was often the spirit of their first full length and here the band infuses recognizable arrangements from many different genres of pop and rock. The first couple songs are decidedly lighter in tone. The next track is the first detour, featuring screeching guitars while the sense of melody remains 100% intact. Later standouts like "Vomit" find the band employing some fine dynamic songwriting craft, starting its journey like a slowcore song from the early 90s, building with gentle verses before its pure-Floydian crescendo.

The rest of the album goes between charming pop and ambitious multi parted suites that sound like they `re as equally fun for the band to play as they were to construct. All in all I'd recommend this to any rock music lover. The songs never get too dark nor too irritatingly cheerful yet there's one thing they have in common in that they don't lack in depth nor feeling. Good job, Girls.
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on February 29, 2012
Quite an incredible album, I never investigated the debut release from Girls but glad I've caught up with them here on the follow up. I think the key word that springs to mind is `heartbreak', Christopher Owen frequently sounds like a broken, beaten wretch afflicted by inner turmoil - whether `looking for love' or missing `you my Ma', he is not a happy camper. When it comes to misery of the vocal and lyrical persuasion I often think of the difference in the way different people look when they cry - some are gibbering sweaty faced disasters, others look poetically beautiful. Similarly here Owen is definitely in the poetic camp (so who are the blubbering idiots you ask? Why am I picturing Fred Durst singing a ballad with the dude from Staind right now..?) and his performance makes the entire record captivating.

It is definitely the melancholic epics that stand out here whether it is the Floyd influenced `Vomit', Elliott Smith-isms of `Just a Song', the understated brilliance of `Forgiveness' or the aching `My Ma'. The retro pop tunes like `Magic' and `Saying I Love You' have a nostalgic quality that means they segue remarkably well with the industrial strength darkness that surrounds them and even out there moments like the Black Mountain style retro riffage of `Die' work well enough.

As we all know you should never pass up a hot date with Girls so what's your excuse sunshine?
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