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2020 Year in Review: Death Valley Girls

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2020 Year in Review: Death Valley Girls

This writer is still stuck in "2020 Year In Review" mode because this writer refuses to believe that 2021 has even begun yet. Let's agree this past week was merely the afterbirth of 2020 and move on to the real start of the year next week mmm'kay? And let's pray we're not dealing with evil 2020/2021 twins because I'm guessing they'd make those twins from The Shining look like nothing more than the "cousins...identical cousins" from The Patty Duke Show. Anyway, here's one of my fave rekkids from last year I mean this year:

Artist: Death Valley Girls
Record: Under the Spell of Joy

Imagine if the Manson Girls had talked Charlie out of that whole Tate-LaBianca nonsense and instead wrote a bunch of cool songs and talked Mr. Helter Skelter into murdering his guitar parts instead of writing drivel like “Look At Your Game Girl” and then enrolled as a group in some EST seminars and you may have ended up with something like this album rather than a bunch of dead bodies. On the Death Valley Girls’s fourth full-length, frontwoman Bonnie Bloomgarden and company subtly expand their sonic palette with a mix of funhouse organ and guitar, fevered sax squalls, motivational mantras (a children’s choir is even brought into service!) and a clutch of songs that put the “mesmerism” back into “mesmerizing.”



Opening track “Hypnagogia” sets the tone with its cascading layers of sound enveloping the listener in the liminal state of its title--a word for the twilight consciousness between wakefulness and sleep--a state that holds sway more or less to the last track with its declaration that “life is but a dream / that is really happening.” A kinda concept album about joy made by a gothy garage-psych band previously drawn to all things dark and spooky it’s unsurprising that DVG doesn’t offer up too many bromides here--”You will survive / while you’re alive” is pragmatic uplift--but the joy on offer *is* unhesitating and unadulterated. Best of all UTSOJ manages to capture something akin to the blissful state I’ve experienced alongside many others at DVG’s incredible live shows. And that’s a joyous thing indeed. (Jason Lee)

photo credit: Abby Banks

 

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