There is beauty in simplicity. On their self-titled debut record, Brooklyn's Vivian Girls keep things simple—deconstructing garage rock and lo-fi pop down to their rudimentary forms—and in return, have crafted easily one of the best records of the year. Clocking in at an energized, but brief, 10 tracks and 22 minutes, Vivian Girls is a sugar rush of goodness, complete with girl group harmonies, punk rock, C86-influenced twee, and a wall of sound all meshed together into something immediately familiar. The recording is catchy as all hell, and destined to leave you wondering why more bands haven't channeled this sound in the past.
Solid as this debut may be, the Girls—Cassie on guitar, Katy on bass, and Ali on drums—don't reinvent the wheel here. Traces of their fuzzed-out brand of jangle can be easily mapped, from Phil Spector-produced girl groups to the Shop Assistants to Black Tambourine, with barely anything else—minus some punk rock played at breakneck speed—of relevance in between. However, it is this breakneck speed, along with their ridiculously sweet, reverb-drenched three-part vocal harmonies, that sets the Girls apart; empowering them with a sense of urgency and immediacy that turns what would normally be a shambling garage song into a near perfect pop explosion.
Though Vivian Girls is filled to capacity with the murkiest of reverb, the guitars breeze by and the bass pounds away, leaving the distorted hooks to flounder helplessly in a cozy blanket of shoegazing warmth. And while no member is all that technically skilled or ambitious—the drums occasionally fall out of time, the vocals are often off-key, and the harmonies have a tendency to be flat—what is lacking in proficiency is more than made up by the quality of songwriting, and the catchiness, straightforwardness, and charm these songs exude.
Though the equation that vocal harmonies plus reverb plus jangly punk equals greatness doesn't seem that tricky, nobody seems to capture it the way Vivian Girls have. Maybe it's their flippant charisma, effortless uniqueness, or any other number of small perfections the Girls create, but there is no doubt that what they're onto is nothing short of spectacular.