If there’s ever been an example of a band being a product of its environment, it would be LA’s West Indian Girl. Imagine a group of would-be-models-turned-studio musicians getting together to play music. Their style influenced by the California Coast and their look and sound so aesthetically pleasing it could only have been dreamt up in Hollywood. West Indian Girl certainly plays to some of the most overused Los Angeles stereotypes, with their over-produced, over-glammed, over-indulgent, and sensationally publicized art-pop.
As I read through the band’s promo handout and made my initial listen to 4th & Wall, I summoned all the cynicism you would expect from the most pompous of asses. So what if your vocalist (Mariqueen Maandig) is the most beautiful girl in the entire world? Does that make your band good? No, but it helps. Was I expected to believe that these glamorous people were reduced to being holed up in an abandoned warehouse surrounded by a homeless community? No, but somehow I could see it. Should I be skeptical that as a band WIG’s music “makes up their religion?” Yeah, especially since that phrase has almost become status quo among up and coming artists.
Despite my superfluously imposed beefs with West Indian Girl, I found myself subconsciously mesmerized by 4th & Wall. I was drawn in and transported to some carefree coastal California world, brainwashed by the expansive textures, bubbling synths, and well-disguised brass instruments. As unforeseen as it may have been, I allowed myself to indulge in this, an album tidily and meticulously crafted, unassuming and optimistic, a tightly packaged bundle of transcendent symphonies.
Centered around the interaction of the rangy, angelic-voiced Mariqueen Maandig and the supremely underrated Robert James, 4th & Wall is alluring and majestic, all while possessing an underlying element of seductiveness. It’s easy to get lost in the psychedelic calm of tracks like “Indian Ocean” and “Solar Eyes” or when Maandig’s manipulative, subdued repetition of “You’re all alone and you follow me” is sung from the distant and distorted vocals that brainwash you in the Ladytron-esque “Lost Children.”
A hidden gem amongst 4th & Wall is “Sofia,” a song of longing which begins with James prophesizing “If I leave and never return/ Light a candle and let it burn/ ‘Cause light transcends time” and erupts into Maandig’s frantic pleas of “come home” over a well-placed violin. Signature song “Blue Wave” is an energetic radio-ready pop gem that addresses the band’s affection for the surf and sun. Flooded with synthesizer, James’ lead reaches Brad Delp levels as he “Try[s] to catch one/ Only the best one/ Surfing on the bluest wave.” The celebratory track is, according to bassist Francis Ten, “about finding the best thing in life, be it a wave or state of mind or a perfect escape.”
As Maandig says of 4th & Wall, “I want to see it in every establishment all over the world. I want this album to transcend time and genres. I want to see everyone in the audience singing the lyrics back to us when we play shows. Basically, I want the whole world to know it, live it and love it.” Though those aspirations may be a tad too ambitious for West Indian Girl to attain, it certainly speaks of their belief in themselves and their album. The album’s press release boasted the challenge of trying to resist the “Blue Wave” and admittedly I could not.
Ivy – Long Distance
The Postmarks – The Postmarks
Ringside – Ringside