Key Tracks: “Islands In The Sky,” “Sunday”
So between this and my recent Oozing Wound review, I think it’s clear that I’m hijacking my own blog to just hype up great new releases by underrated bands I love. Death Valley Girls are cool as hell, and their fifth album feels like an important step forward in their career.
DVG have never truly felt like a “punk” band solely because they sound like ones that would reject the label themselves, but they stray closer to punk than anything else. Their previous albums were a genre blend of punk, pop, alternative and hints of soul, all buried under intentionally lo-fi production. The production allows the band to have a distinct sound – hypnotic and wavey, even as they’re playing music that doesn’t sound like that. “Islands” is categorically a DVG album, because that unique production quality is still in tow. But it also feels closer to an indie album – more patient and mature than the previous, energetic releases. The opener “California Mountain Shake” is a haunting, minimalistic tune that immediately sets a tone, separating this album from the rest of the pack. The title track and the following “Sunday” make up my two favorite songs on the album, and they both present a slower and more balanced side without sacrificing any of the energy. They are both extremely melodic tunes, but ones that make a push for an indie breakthrough.
After two listens, I won’t say this is my favorite DVG album. They are certainly pushing themselves in a new direction and I think they lost a little of their genre-blending – too many songs on the album’s back half bleed together. The album needs a banger or two to balance it out. I don’t feel familiar with most of the tracks on the back half, which is not great after two listens. Still, they are all excellent tracks! It’s a very pleasant listen front to back.
I always applaud and encourage bands to step out of their comfort zone, and that’s exactly what DVG did on “Islands.” It feels like a definitively indie album, and a damn good one at that. The lo-fi production makes the music sound fun, but there’s a ton of talent hidden under there too. I’m hoping that this is the album that gets the name Death Valley Girls into the conversation, because they’ve been pumping out great stuff for a few years now. It’s a logical progression and a nice complement to their earlier albums, expanding their general output and setting them up as a multifaceted powerhouse. Please: pay attention to this group!
If you like this, try: A very similar band that I also love dearly, The Coathangers. Their most recent album, 2019’s “The Devil You Know,” has the most explicitly anti-NRA song I’ve ever heard.