Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

Valley Queen – Supergiant

Finally, an indie rock band and some more thoughts on California…


Rebecca A. Gowns: I saw this band in LA when they won NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Contest. There were a few bands playing that night, all semi-finalists, and they were all earnest, energetic, and full of joy and wide-eyed wonder that they went from playing in garages to playing a huge branded concert tour. They were all fun to watch, but Valley Queen totally blew me away. Frontwoman Natalie Carol cradled her guitar and sang with such intensity; such crackling electricity; an overwhelming sense of passion and devotion to her performance. She emanated a golden aura, one that enveloped all her band members, soared over the stage and reached out and touched every single audience member like a gentle palm brushing across our foreheads. Does the recorded material capture their live energy? The jury is out, but leaning towards yes. Play it soft, and it’s just a nice tune; play it loud, or in headphones, and linger on the music a little longer, and you can start to feel it: that supergiant golden halo.

Thomas Inskeep: Generic indie tune with caterwauling, nails-on-chalkboard vocals? No thanks.

Katherine St Asaph: The midpoint of the Sundays and Mary Margaret O’Hara, thrust out a bit farther on the rock axis. Not quite what I listen to these days, but I’m glad people still make it.

Vikram Joseph: The riff in the intro of “Supergiant” is a freewheeling, rollicking thing of joy. The rest of the song is left striving earnestly to keep that momentum going; to the extent that it succeeds, it’s mostly thanks to Natalie Carol’s untethered vocals, which spill out like a ball of thread untangling itself down a steep hill. But for all its frenetic energy, “Supergiant” ends up feeling just a little insubstantial, neither melodically distinctive nor noisy enough to really convince. There’s a little moment that works really well, when Carol howls, “You were the face of God, you were right here and now you’re gone,” and the riff rushes back in. A few more moments that hit like that, and I’d be sold.

Ashley John: “Supergiant” feels perfectly holistic: a synchronous combination of spacey, screamed lyrics with gritty guitar melded together so that they add to something better than their parts. Valley Queen manage to build a song that allows no part of it to hide, and each component is so good, that’s not a bad thing.

Julian Axelrod: A good LA band captures either the vibrant beauty in every corner of the city or the suffocating dread that seeps through the cracks in its facade. The best LA bands capture both at once, and Valley Queen’s mix of wide-eyed wonder and paralyzing anxiety proves their transplant bona fides. Natalie Carol’s raw howl recalls the East Coast ennui of Big Thief or Hop Along, while the band’s souped-up sound is tailor-made for coastline drives. This duality extends to the lyrics: a meditation on finding paradise in the face of loss, set in a city where the two sit bumper to bumper on the 405. Even the Camaro-ready guitar solo sounds throttled and spent, and if that’s not LA in a microcosm, then I guess I don’t know my hometown.

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