Over the past decade the indie genre has stagnated, wallowing in a bottomless pool of its own egocentrism. Each of the once-renowned heroes— The Strokes and The Killers in particular, often cited as inspirations for London-based Sea Girls— have taken a stab at rejuvenating indie’s verbose self-indulgence over the past few years, with varying levels of success. As we live through a transitional historical moment— pandemics, protests and post-apocalyptic political leaders seem to be the new norm— the space for a group of whinging white men with guitars seems to be diminishing as fast as Boris Johnson’s credibility. Sea Girls’ dynamic debut, however, breaks the curse. Open Up Your Head is an exhilarating oasis in the genre’s barren wasteland.
After emerging onto the scene with three self-released EPs between 2017 and 2018, the quartet cultivated an adoring following with their electrifying, sweat-inducing live shows. Open Up Your Head is an amalgam of live tracks, earlier singles and new material and the project faultlessly brings the band into their own. Sea Girls break the indie mould without losing the genre’s relatable and depressingly-euphoric charm. The foursome— Henry Camamile providing vocals and guitar, Rory Young on lead guitar, Andrew Dawson on bass and drummer Oli Khan— artfully infuse tender lyricism and melancholic subject matter with a hedonistic, stadium level sound. With already-upgraded November tour dates at Glasgow’s Barrowlands and Brixton Academy, the record already feels a bit too big for venues so small.
Exultant opener Transplant has all the trappings of a mid-2000s summer anthem, nostalgically upgraded for the current decade as clamouring indie-pop melodies blend seamlessly with Camamile’s coarse vocals. Do You Really Wanna Know?— released as a single earlier this year— already feels familiar and wouldn’t have been out of place on some of the prestigious festival stages Sea Girls had booked for this summer. Shake is another track that is meticulously too big for its debut album boots. Brasher than the rest of the album, Camamile’s bellowing vocals pit themselves against well-timed riffs to create a menacing, stadium-level sound. In uncertain and challenging times— and whilst we are all undoubtedly missing live music more than ever— Sea Girls’ hypnotic live atmosphere is recreated with faultless precision.While the band never intended to release their debut into the world as we currently know it, the record possesses a malleable quality that ensures it would have been well-received and relatable regardless. With its booming summertime riffs and sentimental romanticism, Open Up Your Head is perhaps— however unintentionally— a requiem for the summer that never was.
Despite this romanticism, the album is not free of cliche. In fact, songwriting duo Camamile and Young embrace hackneyed stereotypes so deftly it could (almost) be passed off as ironic. Allusions to eyes, cars, lips and ‘face[s] made for TV’ perch gingerly in a no man’s land between cringe-worthy tedium and youthful debut-album charm. Tender ballad You Over Anyone pulls us back from the edge as the foursome strip back the booming theatrics of the rest of the record. Camamile’s organic lyricism is enhanced by his raw, penetrating vocals and a delicate, floating piano accompaniment. We are reminded that despite the album’s exhilarating, anthemic facade, real-time struggles are at the core of the project. Discussions of the lead singer’s own battles with mental health are peppered throughout the album and at a time when most of us are feeling a little bit anxious or lost, Sea Girls’ candid honesty couldn’t be more imperative.
Closing track Moving On is conclusively bittersweet; euphoric in the most melancholic way. The foursome aptly create a sonic atmosphere that is at once subdued and celebratory and the album feels accomplished in its final moments. With an ambience that wouldn’t be out of place in the final scene of a coming-of-age film, it becomes apparent that Sea Girls have themselves well and truly come of age.
Listen to Open Up Your Head here.