Photo by ALAINA CLUNE
Emotionally hungover from a Valentine’s Day spent trying to walk he fine line between embarrassingly enthusiastic and an even more embarrassing aversion for the holiday, me and my friends walk what feels like too many blocks from the subway to Union Transfer. We chug cheap beer without the ease and enthusiasm with which we normally do. The rafters and the general admission area of Union Transfer are blessedly uncrowded. There’s a calm, coolness that marks both the sound of the music and this rainy Thursday night.
Girl Ray, a refreshingly laid back North London girl group, are on their first American tour. They take the stage, bathed in blue light, and their vocalist, Poppy Hankin, notes this, her accent winsome and her voice stilled despite the microphone to her lips. Their self-proclaimed “estrogen pop” manifests itself in effortlessly catchy beats, inducing mellow head bobbing. Their tender but never saccharine lyrics are perfectly suited to a drizzly Valentine’ day after. In “Stupid Things,” Poppy croons “I’m thinking of you / Just to feel close to you / I’ve never done so many stupid things / Just to make me feel new.” She succinctly navigates the feeling of stupidity that all too often accompanies crushes and the struggle to establish intimacy.
My hair dries, and my residual grumpiness dissipates as the once empty spaces along the rafters fill. Porches takes the stage, opening with their more recent, synthier singles like “Find Me.” Aaron Maine, the frontman, as well as the rest of the band, ooze carefree coolness, their bleached blonde hair losing the battle with darker roots, their pulsating rhythm more akin to a heartbeat than intentionally amped EDM. I briefly lose my shit when Aaron Maine beckons his friend “Tony G” [(Sandy) Alex G] on stage to do backup vocals for “Leave the House.” They stupefy with minimal effort, echoing each other with emotionally conflicted lines like “I don’t want it to be clean / I just want you on my team.” Then comes the obligatory two song encore, during which my shit is irrevocably lost. They play the simplistic and intimate “Country,” a slow melodic pulse of a song that evokes the wholesome yearning of first love, the desire to “keep it dumb, make it soft.” And then they close out with their first hit, “Headsgiving,” proof-positive that although their sound has evolved since the departure of bassist Frankie Cosmos, their penchant for melancholy yet cutting lyrics like “I’ll give you head, before you head to therapy” and effortlessly catchy melodies remains. — KEELY MCAVENEY