It may only contain nine tracks, but Dancehall Days from The Beautiful Girls has an uncanny ability to stretch out into a lifetime. It works fantastically on many levels and you could listen to it at the gym or in your car… But instead listen to Dancehall Days in private, lying on your bed with your eyes shut, and the listening experience will take on a whole new form. Great songwriting, production and pacing worth favoring.
Emotionally charged lyrics, groovy bass lines and sultry horns mark the long awaited return of The Beautiful Girls on their thoughtful new LP Dancehall Days.
Opening with The Beautiful Girls Are Dead, a droning and intimidating didgeridoo blasts its way into your eardrums. In a matter of seconds the tone shifts dramatically with the bouncing piano of Until My Kingdom Comes. Until My Kingdom Comes rolls in with a playful piano part, cute synths and horns. Mat McHugh’s soothing vocals come over the track, yet underneath all the suaveness is a song that harbours frustration as evidenced by its lyrical content. Lyrics like “But every time I look into the mirror I see, the ghost of you somewhere in there looking at me. But I can never run away or make any sense of what I am to be”, really shows the desire to find a place in the world and the struggle to escape what was once known.
Stars continues these themes of relationship woes and uncertain futures, rich with a deep rolling bass and nuanced steel drums. Control incorporates a bit more synth which works well to further emphasise the sense of identity crisis found in the lyrics; “I felt a coldness in my chest, there in my bags all I had left, and disappeared directionless, no place to be”. The repetition of the distorted “Control” becomes an echoing, desperate plea for something that has been lost.
The album continues to chip along at a good pace. Although the lyrical content feels quite heavy the music is steeped in roots culture, the grooves are tight while the drums create plenty of space for those sparse guitars, creating an air of pensiveness that suits McHugh’s relaxed vocals and emotionally charged lyrics perfectly. Expanding the atmosphere on Dancehall Days are those wonderful sultry horns.
Tracks like Me I Disconnect From You best show this trend of melancholy disguised as jolly. The title track Dancehall Days sees McHugh get out of his funk (mood) and get his funk (music) on, so don’t be surprised to find yourself shaking those hips of yours once the smooth rhythm of this song gets its clutches in you. Meanwhile the opening beat and synths of Survival are reminiscent of Dutch house circa 1998. It’s a great dance-y track that I wouldn’t be surprised would get a remix treatment sometime in the future. The optimistic music matches the tone of the lyrics, as McHugh questions the validity of his doubt.
Closing out with the space like sounds of #1 Stylee (for you younger kids, that is not a hash tag, in a world before Instagram that symbol meant ‘number’) returns to the central themes of Dancehall Days; reflection on the past and the attempt to marry it with the approaching yet uncertain future. It is an album that serves as a great introduction to the roots/ reggae genre for those who are unfamiliar to the territory, while also likely to please established fans of The Beautiful Girls. Dancehall Days is a multi-faceted album that can be enjoyed on the surface or used as a medium to explore the meaning and motivations of one’s existence.
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