Chicago trio Horsegirl release their debut record, Versions of Modern Performance, on Matador. Penelope Lowenstein (guitar, vocals), Nora Cheng (guitar, vocals), and Gigi Reece (drums) - the best friends comprising Horsegirl - do everything collectively, from songwriting to trading vocal duties and swapping instruments to sound and visual art design. The warmth and strength of their bond crackles through every second of their debut. With lyrics intentionally impressionistic and open-ended, and a sound that ranges with joy and enthusiasm across a range of styles, Versions of Modern Performance offers many pathways.
Following last year’s one-off ‘Billy’, lead single ‘Anti-glory’ is elastic and propulsive.
The friendship of these three goes far beyond Horsegirl. Reece and Cheng, college freshmen, and Lowenstein, a high school senior, learned to play—and met—through the significant network of Chicago youth arts programs, and they have their own mini-rock underground, complete with zine distros, that they describe as somewhat separate from the “adult shows” that take place at bars and DIY spaces they don’t have access to. They’re exultant about their friends’ talent, noting that any of the bands from that scene could have been (or might still be!) plucked up the way they were.
Versions of Modern Performance was recorded with John Agnello (Kurt Vile, The Breeders, Dinosaur Jr.) at Chicago’s Electrical Audio. “It’s our debut bare-bones album in a Chicago institution with a producer who we feel like really respected what we were trying to do,” the band says. Across the record, Horsegirl expertly play with texture, shape and shade, showcasing their fondness for improvisation and experimentation. One can hear elements of the ‘80s and ‘90s independent music the band love so deeply and sincerely—the scuzzy melodicism of what used to be called “college rock,” the cool, bubbly space-age sheen of the ‘90s vamps on lounge and noir; the warm, noisy roar of shoegaze; the economical hooks and rhythms of post-punk. There’s even a bit of no wave mixed in for good measure. But as Horsegirl fuse all of this together, it feels not like a pastiche or a hacky retread but something as playful and unique as its predecessors.