Album Review: Eilish Gilligan is ‘The Final Girl’ – a cathartic journey through pop’s dark labyrinth.

Feature Photograph: Katy Roubin

The Breakdown

'Final Girl' is a masterful exploration of the intersection between vulnerability and resilience, wrapped in layers of shimmering pop melodies and haunting lyricism. Drawing inspiration from horror tropes and the concept of the 'final girl'—the lone survivor who confronts her fears—Gilligan crafts a deeply personal narrative that resonates on both an emotional and intellectual level.
Independent 8.7

A longtime favourite of ours here at Backseat Mafia, Eilish Gilligan continues to release the most evocative and distinctive music that is without peer. Her electronic pop is differentiated by her ethereal vocals and her passionate delivery, soaked in an air of pain and regret and yet distilled by a resilience and strength that creates a powerful vortex. The canvas upon which she paints is complex and layered, vivid and full of contrasts and unexpected twists and turns.

Her debut album ‘Final Girl’, released today, is inspired by her love for all things horror. She says of the central role music plays in her life:

In the end, after a decade in the music industry, the one thing I have always held as the highest truth is that no one is going to care as much about your music as you do. No manager, no industry figurehead — it sounds so corny, but the music will always be there for you and at the end of the day, you are the only one who will be there for the music in turn.

Gilligan is in essence that final girl in the familiar horror movie trope:

When it comes to my music career, at the end of the day, I am the last one standing in a room that over the years has had a lot of people filtering in and out. I feel like many artists will be able to relate to that – the idea that when all is said and done, YOU, and you alone, are the person who lives and breathes the art you make. I think it’s good to remember that throughout the peaks and troughs of an artistic career.

Gilligan’s style falls somewhere between artists like Lorde, Dua Lipa and Hatchie, with a darker, more intense soul.

The opening track ‘The Catch’ has a vibrant, jittery electronic thrum in the background that pounds away in the head, contrasted by Gilligan’s velvet vocals that drape across the rough textured music. The music swirls and whirls like an eddy in a pool.

The second track ‘Involved You’ continues with this steely strength and profound maturity that seems to brush aside the vicissitudes of her earlier lockdown introspective world (evident in earlier releases) and defiantly enter a new sphere.

An electronic voltage seems to have been inserted into Gilligan’s velvet vocals with an insistent synth bass and a dramatic blast of instruments that splashes in and out of the mix. Gilligan’s delivery is as dramatic and bold as the instrumentation, layered and angry, defiant and bold.

Gilligan says of the track:

This song is about accidentally falling into the role of the villain in relationships, and kind of regretting it… but also kind of embracing it, tooIt happened a few times in a row and I started to think ‘what if my worst fear of being a bad person has come true without me realising it?’ With hindsight I don’t think that was actually the case, but this song was written from that place.

The lyrics reflect this brutal level of self reflection:

i get up hurt you hard
i nurse the wound accordingly
i back out back to blue
i never should have involved you
i had you, had you whole
i took you and i threw you up
i back out, back to blue
i never should have involved you

The accompanying video, directed and edited by Katy Roubin, sees an animated Gilligan, imperious and distant, performing the song in an anonymous room. Is there any self-doubt or regret for actions passed? Not in this strong performance:

The haunting stabbing piano in the background imbues the track ‘Angel Face’ with a certain level of anxiety and tension as Gilligan sings of personal vulnerability in the delicate track.

‘I’m Not The Way’ has a more sprightly upbeat step coasting on a cyclic piano riff that launches into a dynamic anthemic chorus whereas ‘Swimming’ is more reflective as Gilligan’s vocals drift across an aquatic bubble of sounds.

‘Angel Face’ was written during a period of deep grief, as Gilligan explains in her own words:

I wrote Angel Face to process some of the anger, hurt and betrayal I was feeling about something that happened in my music career at the time. It sounds funny to say I felt those things about an event that was purely professional, but such are the relationships you develop in the music industry.

I felt so powerless. I felt completely voiceless. I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone about what had happened without sounding hysterical or insane. A sense of righteousness made me feel even angrier and watching the industry celebrate people I knew weren’t really all that great on the inside was difficult. I knew these feelings were something other women in my position would be able to relate to. I held onto the relief that writing Angel Face brought me for so long and I really hope it can bring that catharsis to others now.

Gilligan’s vocals are, as always, close and lined with velvet, almost claustrophobic but ultimately ethereal and hypnotic.

‘Swollen’ puts on show the incredible range in Gilligan’s vocals, ranging from velvet whispers to a more powerful delivery that scales the highest heights, all in a track that ebbs and flows in intensity and pace. There is no simple verse chorus verse structure – rather it moves through a whole panoply of feelings and tones. ‘Space’ continues with Gilligan’s experimentation with textured layers of sound that filter through the instrumentation, held together by her vocals.

The final track ‘All The time’ puts on show Gilligan’s favoured instrument – the piano. The track is sparse and acoustic – the electronic glitches recede in favour of an imperial ballad that positively weeps with emotion: naked and unadorned.

‘Final Girl’ is a masterful exploration of the intersection between vulnerability and resilience, wrapped in layers of shimmering pop melodies and haunting lyricism. Drawing inspiration from horror tropes and the concept of the ‘final girl’—the lone survivor who confronts her fears—Gilligan crafts a deeply personal narrative that resonates on both an emotional and intellectual level.

Throughout ‘Final Girl,’ Gilligan proves herself to be a fearless storyteller and a formidable talent in the world of indie pop. Her ability to blend infectious hooks with introspective lyricism is a testament to her versatility as an artist, and ‘Final Girl’ stands as a testament to her evolution as a musician.

In a genre often dominated by surface-level sentimentality, Eilish Gilligan’s ‘Final Girl’ is a refreshing reminder of the power of pop music to confront our deepest fears and emerge stronger on the other side. With its haunting melodies and poignant lyricism, it’s an album that lingers long after the final notes fade away, leaving listeners spellbound and eager for more.

‘Final Girl’ is out now and available to download and stream here. It was self-written, and produced by Gilligan and her long-time friend and collaborator Gab Strum, mixed by Hamish Patrick, and mastered by Matthew Agoglia. Additional production was provided by Max Dowling and Graham Ritchie.

Feature Photograph: Katy Roubin

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