Track: Splintered in her head – 女の子

I’ve been to Japan twice. I think it is possibly the greatest, most mystifying and brilliant place I’ve ever been. We wandered around all day, and it feels (at best) both weird and (at worst) frustrating that pretty much nobody understands what you say, and vice versa. At one point, we took to pointing at the menu in (of all places) McDonalds. Despite that, it is somewhere I should desperately like to visit again at some point in the future.

Portland, Oregon based Splintered in her head are a band with a range of influences. They are Micheal Pacheco (vocals, guitar),bassist/keys player Steve Mallory, guitarist and keyboard player Ephraim Bano, and drummer Matt Koski. One of the most obvious is The Cure, the band being named after one of the Indie-goth superstars b-sides (Charlotte sometimes), but other musical influences would seem to be David Bowie, The Church, Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails. But there is a definite Asian influence too, the concept of the band being dreamt up by Pacheco whilst he was out living in Japan (he’s fluent in the language to) In addition Bano was born in Manilla and raised in Hong Kong.

Their EP 女の子- pronounced ‘Onnanoko’ and meaning ‘Girls’ is a continuation of that. It’s their debut (self)release and is due out very shortly (read into that an imminent but as yet not confirmed date) and contains five slices of electro-indie pop.

The first track, Madonna kicks off with a slow handclap, around which keyboards and bass spar, and over the top Pacheco shows us he has been blessed with a fine voice. Its sort of Cure, sort of MGMT sort of, well….difficult to explain, really. There are sections contained within of more standard Indie instrumentation and sound, but it actually seems to work. It builds to a handclap and is actually, musically a smart catchy indie tune.

Cry like you mean it is more Depeche Mode. Again Pacheco pulls everything he can out of the song, and the bass has this warm rumble that really resonates. I just find that lyrically Splintered in her head could be so much more ambitious, to match what is rapidly becoming evident to be an ambitious EP/LP – (Its referred to as both in the press release)

The best things in life, on this form anyway, are evidently Depeche Mode sounding keyboards, mixed with something akin to The Killers. Once again the bass rumble continues to fascinate me, but this time the moments of silence are almost as good as the moments of noise, toying with us as a listener. The song develops into something good, but not remarkable.

The penultimate track on the release (see what I did there) The harder I try, the more I fail is (apart from sounding like a The Smiths song) much more interesting. This time, there is a more downbeat slice of electro-pop, and sonically, more experimental (within its pop form) The drums drive the music on, with Pacheco building up your hopes, comforting you by promising ‘Everything’s going to be alright’ before the darker moments take over, and he reminds you of the title.

The EP finishes with Tigers and Cheerios. Sonically closer to Post Rock than anything else on the EP, it doesn’t feel like this is a band that are struggling with an identity, more that they are comfortable in a range of styles. It’s an instrumental, and as Pacheco stated “By far, Tigers and Cheerios is my favorite song. We joke around in the band and call it ‘Plainsong Pt. 2,’ as an homage to ‘Plainsong,’ the first track on The Cure’s 1989 Disintegration album.  The song has such a big sound with so much beauty and sadness.  I couldn’t bring myself to write a vocal for it.  I wanted to release it as an instrumental because I think the song speaks for itself.  Adding a vocal line would be too much, and I didn’t want to muddy up Steve’s song like that.” Its the highlight of the EP, smart Explosions in the Sky style music, washing over the listener.

女の子 is a solid debut EP, with plenty to suggest that Splintered in her head are a band to take notice of. Certainly they have the tunes, a whole gambit of sounds, and if they can just open their minds and imaginations a tiny bit more, they could be contenders.

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