When Girl Ray, a trio hailing from London dropped their first single, ‘Trouble’, on Moshi Moshi records last year, it was a “where did that come from?” moment.
Here was a band that had seemingly arrived out of nowhere with a beautifully warm, rich and rhythmic single nonchalantly tucked under their arms, and they appeared to be shrugging saying “Oh, this old thing?”. No fuss, no hassle only excellence. So how do Poppy, Sophie and Iris fare on Earl Grey, their debut LP for Moshi Moshi records? Do they deliver on all the promise of their recent singles? The short answer is yes, but there is so much more to Earl Grey than what we’ve previously heard the band.
The record opens with the exquisite one-two of ‘Just Like That’ and ‘Monday Tuesday’. ‘Just Like That’ could be seen as peak Girl Ray, understated but never underwhelming all thick layers of harmonies and chugging funk that envelops you, while ‘Monday Tuesday’ hits the same sweet spot as Whitney’s more tender moments. But the real joy of this record, and perhaps Girl Ray’s greatest achievement, is how it makes you feel.
Take the album’s first single and its reprise towards the end of the record for instance. ‘Stupid Things’ almost feels voyeuristic in its intimacy, as if the listener has stumbled on a housemate’s early morning outpouring of emotion through music – a beautiful moment of fragility and tenderness that is an honour to witness. The reprise of ‘Stupid Things’, seemingly a sketch of the songs early progressions, really emphasises this feeling. Across the 12 tracks of Earl Grey, the London three-piece consistently conjure this wondrous feeling and it’s a triumph.
But to say that this is the only side that Girl Ray display throughout the LP would be to sell what Poppy, Sophie and Iris have created here, far too short. This is where the record’s lynchpin comes in, the gargantuan 13 minute long ‘Earl Grey (Stuck in a Groove)’. Through the band’s debut LP, snippets of dreamy, psych vibes can be felt – but they reach a crescendo here. ‘Earl Grey (Stuck in a Groove)’ is the band’s ‘Echoes’ moments a glorious refinement of everything that makes Girl Ray special, as well as the band pushing what is expected from them. In an album chock full of standout moments, Girl Ray have crafted one of the tracks of the year with this one.
To put it simply, Earl Grey is stunning. On their debut record, Girl Ray have crafted an album which comforts and confounds in equal measure. It’s a record that builds upon what the London three-piece have become known for, but also pushes that sound forward into compelling and unexpected areas.
If this is what Girl Ray are capable of on their first record, who knows what we can expect from the two/three records down the line? One thing is a near certainty, it is going to be something you don’t want to miss out on.