Last month we were treated to a wonderful release from Twin Peaks, who gave fans the perfect soundtrack to a hot afternoon in the shade, when cooling off is a pipe dream but the day is just too beautiful to have any complaints. This time, TV Girl joins the party: their new release French Exit is a great soundtrack to sing in autumn.
TV Girl started as a collaboration between Brad Petering and Trung Ngo before becoming Petering’s solo act in 2013. Petering casually refers to French Exit as a solo album “Depending on how you look at it,” which is an odd line considering this follows a 15-track mixtape a couple of years ago titled The Wild, the Innocent, the TV Shuffle. The album’s Bandcamp page goes on to advertise “12 songs about lost lust, too much love and not enough.”
TV Girl overall is a delightful, swimmy adventure that lazes comfortably through each track with a cheerfully detached demeanor. Opener “Pantyhose” sounds almost like someone trying to properly tune a radio before the percussion jumps in, followed by a chorus of girls vocalizing, with all of it coming together for a catchy introduction. Following that, “Birds Don’t Sing” is the clear standout with a memorably main hook and amusingly melancholy “Birds don’t sing, they just fall from the sky/Girls don’t call and they never tell you why/That’s just how they say good-bye.”
The musical concept that anchors TV Girl is a double-edged sword as the soft, low vocals take a backseat to the music itself. While that music is nothing short of wonderful, the mumbled vocal delivery treads close to being grating at times. It’s not really all that bad in every song. Things are clearer on “Louise,” where TV Girl achieves a dreamlike nirvana. Some will find the vocal style easier to swallow than others, but TV Girl is an acquired taste and, to their credit, an unmistakable trademark of the project.
The musicianship here is remarkably solid. It’s not often that the different musical aspects of a band can hold together so well, but TV Girl pulls it off. The album has an overall casually fast-paced vibe, but each song plays on that vibe a little differently. In “Louise” the xylophone bounces along accompanied by woodwinds in the forefront. “Hate Yourself,” allows the piano to take center stage and features deeper, clearer vocals. “Birds Don’t Sing” has what sounds like a horn running right through the center. Part of the fun of this album is the delight of the uncertainty of what’s going to happen next.
Further musical variation comes in those dreamy soft tracks like “Talk to Strangers,” which slips along so gracefully may as well be a calling card for the Sandman. Immediate follow-up “The Blonde” is just as relaxing with its main hook. And who doesn’t like that scat-style of singing? The final treat comes in the form of closer “Anjela,” whose clangy percussion and acoustic guitar defiantly shrugs off a lost love.
The whole thing is complex in a very fulfilling way; it utilizes multiple instruments without showboating and adopts its own style without being tired. This is meticulously orchestrated music with every piece in place like hairs on the head, nothing out of order. When music feels this tightly constructed and simultaneously so effortless, it’s definitely worth checking out. Summer exits stage left to great fanfare with French Exit.