If you’re like me, you can’t wait for this winter to finally be over, hopelessly longing for the day you can once again lay by the pool all day with the tape deck blasting. Even as I write this I’m being barricaded in by another onslaught of snow. So, while it seems like the days of pool parties and campouts are an eternity away, Los Angeles transplants Gal Pals are here to give a much needed injection of summer fun on their long-awaited debut full-length, Velvet Rut.
The duo’s sunny harmonies positively radiate over a wall of reverb and distorted guitars, making short, explosive bursts of extremely catchy garage pop, like a Technicolor overdose of Pop Rocks and soda going off in your mouth. It’s rare to find two voices that fit so perfectly together it’s as if they were made for each other, and not only do Gal Pals have just that, they ingeniously bring it to a genre where beautiful close harmonies like this are almost unheard of.
Guitarist Lauren Marie Mikus’ stately, Dolly Mixture-like vocals blend effortlessly with drummer Jillian Talley’s, whose own vocals were integral to the sound of her previous band Cowabunga Babes just as it is here. The two sound like they have been singing together forever from the playful call and responses of “Yips” to the one minute explosion of punk energy on “Baker’s Son.”
The entire twenty eight minutes of Velvet Rut feels so alive and energetic, it’s like witnessing a brief snapshot of an impromptu live performance from the duo. It’s as if you are actually standing outside of the club they’re playing and upon hearing them start to play, you stamp out your cigarette and rush in with your friends to catch their set. Your heart is racing, the echo of the band is bouncing off the walls while the volume grows with intensity as you get closer and closer, and you just hope you get inside before this wild tornado of energy has passed.
The album rotates around an perpetual cycle of chasing romance, breaking hearts and having their own hearts broken, epitomized in the tender, Everly Brothes-esque introduction on “Dumbhead,” singing “I don’t date/I just wait/to fall in love/to be destroyed.” On an album that plays like a greatest hits compilation, "Dumbhead” is one of Gal Pals’ unquestionable pop masterpieces. Like a girl-group mini opera from The Shangri-Las or The Ronettes, the song builds to rising crescendo structured in distinct segments, and replete with castanets, surf drum beats, and impassioned vocals. Basically, Phil Spector would be proud of its production.
Velvet Rut is an endless summer party that can never stop, because if it’s put on hold for even a second, the whole foundation is toppled. It’s that burning sensation at the back of the throat that gives the album a subtle undercurrent of existential dread, and the sentiment is even addressed briefly on “Here’s to the Gals” as they sing, “Just trying to live so we don’t think about life.” It’s a shame Velvet Rut wasn’t released in the summer because it would make the perfect soundtrack for beach parties, barbecues, or just cruising around; but it’s such a warm, sun-soaked album it might just be enough to help you get over your winter blues.