Brooklyn power-pop band Charly Bliss date back to 2011, when Eva Hendricks, vocalist and guitarist, recorded an EP with guitarist Spencer Fox. The duo were joined by Eva’s brother Sam on drums, and eventually bass player Dan Shure.
The quartet play guitar pop, and it’s well worn territory. Their excellent hooks, coupled with Eva Hendricks’ offbeat lyrics and distinctive, helium-tinged voice, allow them to transcend their influences.
Charly Bliss Album Reviews
Original guitar pop is a difficult task in the 21st century, and Charly Bliss’s debut album is heavily in debt to the 1990s. Debut album Guppy combines the fast-paced, hook-filled songs of early Weezer, but with a female vocalist they’re also reminiscent of other 1990s acts like Belly or Veruca Salt. If it all sounds unoriginal, these songs are so memorable and jammed with hooks that it’s immaterial. Guitarist Spencer Fox stated “We had to create an ecosystem where our loud, messy rock sounds could co-exist with these super catchy melodies and pop hooks.” The band label themselves as “Bubblegrunge”, which is also an excellent descriptor of their sound.
Vocalist and guitarist Eva Hendricks has a tinge of helium in her distinctive voice, but it simply allows the band’s supple melodies to shine. It was really about realizing what we’re best at as a band.” Hendricks is both witty and sincere on songs like ‘Glitter’ – “Am I the best? Or just the first person to say yes?” Charly Bliss get plenty of mileage out of a four piece setup, and their chord structures are interesting enough to stand up to repeated listening, although synth on some tracks helps to vary the textures. It’s difficult to pick favourites off such an even, excellent album, but highlights include the punchy ‘Black Hole’ and the memorable comparisons of a dead dog to a lover in ‘DQ’.
Despite its clear debt to the 1990s, Guppy is a great little record, a burst of energy and good-natured humour.
Guppy was excellent, but repeating it would have led to a creative dead end – Charly Bliss successfully expand their sound with Young Enough, a more mature and nuanced record. There’s more diversity of moods and tempo, and synthesizers add a poppy sheen. The band wanted to acknowledge that they were fans of pop music, citing Lorde’s Melodrama, Carly Rae Jepsen, The Cars, and Fountains of Wayne as influences.
The title track was inspired by an LCD Soundsystem gig, and the groove based tune is different from anything else in the band’s catalogue. The brief and atmospheric ‘Fighting in the Dark’ is another step in a new direction, while songs like ‘Under You’ reprise the wonderfully constructed power pop from their debut.
Hendricks’ lyrics were notable for their honesty on Guppy – the most memorable line was “I bounced so high, I peed the trampoline” from the song ‘DQ’. On Young Enough, Hendricks takes her candour a step further, confronting an abusive relationship in which she was sexual assaulted. Standout song ‘Chatroom’ features the key line “I was fazed in the spotlight/ his word against mine.”
‘Hurt Me’ is built around an electric piano that could have come from a 1970s Supertramp record. It’s placed after ‘Chatroom’ on Young Enough and the songs are thematically paired. Where ‘Chatroom’ is joyfully defiant, ‘Hurt Me’ is sadly resigned, with an opening line that’s worthy of Paul Westerberg: “Come on, let’s get something wrong/Look into my face too long/Overthrow yourself to me.”
The potential of Young Enough is most fully realised with ‘Capacity’. It merges a poppy sheen with dirty guitars, and it’s topped off with typically unconventional yet potent imagery from Hendricks; “I’m at capacity, I’m spilling out of me,”
Guppy is still my favourite Charly Bliss record, but Young Enough is an excellent second installment in this young band’s almost impeccable discography. It opens up new horizons for the group, their vibrant personality injecting new life into the tired guitar pop genre.
Back to 2010s Album Reviews….