Reviews

Horsegirl
Versions of Modern Performance

(Matador)

7/10

Horsegirl nailed their colours firmly to the mast when releasing the rollicking single ‘World of Pots and Pans’. The track – the first shared from their debut album Versions of Modern Performance – is a reference-heavy haze of shamble pop, sonically calling out oft forgotten Slumberland luminaries Black Tambourine and lyrically nodding to The Pastels, Beat Happening and The Cure. Harder than just collaging together lyrics from these forebears is capturing their giddy romanticism but, thrillingly, that’s what Horsegirl achieve.

That the record comes out on Matador – a label synonymous with ’90s indie rock – seems perfectly apt; this LP could easily have garnered an end of term distinction from the rock school portrayed in Yo La Tengo’s ‘Sugarcube’ video. The Chicagoan teenagers – comprised of Penelope Lownestein, Nora Cheng and Gigi Reece – gallop out of the traps with ‘Anti-Glory’, a commanding opener that strobes into a delirious dancefloor frenzy. Propulsive drums usher in twitching guitar lines; both dropping for a chorus that restlessly repeats “Dance with me”. Equally urgent is the swirling climax of ‘Billy’, where distressed waves of shoegaze turbulence coalesce into a whirlpool of frenetic tension. 

Elsewhere light is let in and the edges soften. Take, for example, the fluttering vocals on ‘Beautiful Song’, or the instrumental palate cleanser ‘Guitar is Dead’; in such moments, delicate keys allow Horsegirl to lean into the fragility of Daniel Johnston’s plaintive home recordings. 

Versions of Modern Performance isn’t the stuff of pastiche or mimicry; instead the trio doff their caps whilst creating a world entirely of their own. ‘World of Pots and Pans’ seems neatly representative – it traces a lineage of cult favourites that Horsegirl can now consider themselves part of. It treads the line of being self-assured whilst channelling the shambolic energy of those they admire. What’s left is a spontaneity that sounds like it was born from after-school rehearsals, reliant on impromptu percussion pinched from the kitchen.

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