As I discussed with Goat Girl in my interview with them, genres have become largely defunct in describing music. This is a good thing! Sure, they’re useful for finding what you need at your local record store, but for actually describing music it’s much better to take each album and band on their own merits. That’s partly why I love Goat Girl’s self-titled debut. I have never quite heard anything like it before. Clottie “Lottie” Cream, L.E.D., Naima Jelly, and Rosy Bones bring something new not just on the album as a whole, but from song to song. Goat Girl’s debut album is a lo-fi, ever-shifting musical journey that delivers something fun and interesting on all its stops.
The album starts with the instrumental “Salty Sounds,” which gives a bit of a sense of what you’re in for in that it’s lo-fi and more than a little rough around the edges (by design). A creepy drumroll, lurching piano chords and melody, and quick wails of the guitar make “Salty Sounds” a track that wouldn’t be out of place on The Twilight Zone. Lest you get too comfortable, the next song “Burn The Stake,” is a venomous political jab with heavily distorted guitars and Lottie delivering perfectly anguished vocals. “They’re all filthy fakes,” she sings, the contempt in her voice palpable and entrancing. After that comes “Creep,” a great song that has a fiddle in it.
It’s these sort of unexpected instrument inclusions and stylistic changes that makes Goat Girl so compelling. Each song is a mystery to be unraveled and enjoyed, each choice of direction a pleasant surprise. “The Man,” took inspiration from The Beatles for both the video and the music, with a dash of a surf rock wavy riff to propel it along. “Viper Fish” is a moody bass-driven affair, with the ominous repetition of the line “Don’t shed a tear/we all feel shame, we all feel shame” giving a delightfully sinister flourish. “I Don’t Care” parts 1 and 2 both introduce some country twang into the punk mix for a change of pace.
When you see the track listing standing at 19 songs, you might be taken aback. Although it is nearly 20 tracks long, Goat Girl’s debut doesn’t feel bloated or stretched out, thanks in large part to the relative brevity of each song. Only two tracks run longer than 3 minutes, and this fact also helps carry the eclectic mix of the album. With so many styles and instruments getting tossed around, a collection of longer songs could get bogged down. At a shorter length, each song lasts long enough for the listener to enjoy whatever new soundscape is entering their ears before jettisoning off to the next destination. What comes next? A punk rock anthem? A bass-fueled track that’s perfect for getting up and dancing? A piano instrumental for a man named Hank (all of these are real possibilities on the album)? Of course listening to a new release from your favorite band is exciting, but with Goat Girl’s debut, the act of experiencing the album in real time is exciting in and of itself. There’s always a new element or idea to keep you on your toes.
All of this is tied together by Goat Girl’s excellent lo-fi sound. The band worked with Dan Carey on the album, and the result is superb. There are some artists and musical styles where you want the crispest, cleanest production you can find, but Goat Girl’s is not one of them. The album sounds like it’s played in your best friend’s basement, and I mean that in the best way possible. It’s gritty, each note muscling its way out past the others. It’s loud and messy and contains a cacophony of sounds crashing off one another in a joyfully reckless way. For a band that plays fast and loose with the rules of what instruments go together and what sounds can be combined, the lo-fi production that coats the entire album is a smart choice that works out very well.
The best summary for Goat Girl’s debut is that there is no summary for it. The lo-fi production carries across all 19 songs, but dive deeper than that and there’s no easy categorization for any of it. That’s what I love about it, though. Goat Girl is an album that jumps from one idea to the next, executing each and every one of them with an enthusiasm and tenaciousness that’s infectious. You can’t fit Goat Girl into one box, but I don’t think they’d want you to. They’ll keep on doing whatever the hell they feel like doing, and listeners will be all the better off for it.