Girl Ray – Earl Grey
Girl Ray – Earl Grey (2017)
I must admit: as much as I love this album, its cover art sure is bad. Well, let's just call it mismatched. There's far too much metaphor connoted in a moody greyscale shot of sheep crowding up to a gate for an album of carefree pop. Maybe I'm missing something. In spite of that nitpick, it's a brilliant collection of music and it's become one of my go-to "chill but upbeat" albums of the past couple years. (Or maybe "upbeat but chill"?)
What struck me first about the album when I heard it was how Seventies it was; since those initial listenings, I've developed a more nuanced appreciation, but there's definitely a warmth and brightness to it that seems to be of another era. The themes I think are, mostly, romance, in an "indie melodramatic" sense that feels neither cloying nor cliché. It's immediately endearing on all fronts – composition, word and sound – and, in this listener's opinion, brushes with pop perfection.
Now, I realize I throw the term "pop" around a lot, and this might be a good opportunity to add some definition there. I do tend to embrace a broad interpretation of the term and, truth be told, I'm not sure I've ever attempted to firmly delineate where I draw the line in the sand. So here goes. I would say that pop is art that meets the following criteria:
- It is aesthetically pleasing. You might object that "aesthetically pleasing" is subjective, but I would argue that you can in fact measure the degree to which combinations of sound frequencies, color and other physical stimuli register as harmonious, or dissonant, when observed by respective human senses.
- It is knowingly simplified. I'm not saying it has to be "simple," I'm saying it is reduced, intentionally, to something closer to the essence of the art. For example, in music, this might manifest as lyrical repetition.
- It contains references to or signifiers of popular culture. Indeed this might be stating the obvious but it's a bit slippery to concretely define. "References" and "signifiers" can be quite subtle and minute, but the art should contain some observable similarity to an existing cultural phenomenon.
Anyway, you should go listen to Earl Grey.