Review: The Grey World of Secret Girl’s ‘demo’ EP

demo EP - secret girl
Secret Girl kick off their musical career with a hypnotizing collection of songs.
Stream: ‘demo EP’ – Secret Girl

I was pulled in one afternoon when I was scrolling through r/emo in search of nothing in particular and crossed paths with a pastel pink square with the words “secret girl” printed on it in typewriter font. I clicked further, intrigued with the impression that, judging by the band name, the band was made up of women, and, based on the bubblegum pink color, it would emanate a lighthearted atmosphere. I pressed play.

All of my inferences were shut down almost immediately, yet I found myself in a trance. It rang with a memorable dark energy, dragging me into its unique grey portal. I was caught off guard, and I noticed a comparison a fan made to Title Fight’s cult-followed Floral Green in the Bandcamp comments. As someone a part of that cult, I recognized the source of my attraction, and it revealed itself more and more as the music enveloped me.

The first track, “awake,” is instantly immersive, with a catchy, quiet riff echoing into a loud clash that persists throughout the song. It’s the perfect balance of chaos and monotony; similar to the aforementioned Floral Green, and even Joy Divison’s iconic Unknown Pleasures. It drones in a way that mimics the dismal words: “I feel so fucking empty / Body’s always drained.” The vocals also feel reminiscent of Ian Curtis’s own, singing drearily with an emotionless baritone, painting a full picture of a depressive episode, captured flawlessly down to every stroke. It intensifies with the second track, “present,” when this grayness grows with each morose second, and it wraps you entirely in this cold, dark embrace that manages to both disturb and comfort. “Another dream where things are well / And then I wake in my own hell,” grieves vocalist Alfred Liu, submerging the EP deeper into despondence.

demo EP - secret girl

demo EP – secret girl

The instrumentals are mesmerizing for three striking reasons, all starting with the letter “i”: they’re intimate (these are mere demos recorded “in a musty garage”), they’re introspective (so obviously filled with reflection and thought that it feels like you’re floating in a headspace), and they’re immersive (once you listen to it, it’s hard to detach from this bleak world you’re plucked into). When I had been scrolling r/emo, it’s true that I wasn’t searching for anything in particular, but recently, I have been on a treasure hunt. This new wave of emo bands is bringing to shore American Football appreciators, replicating the twinkly acoustic sound that resonates with many emos. However, the amount of emo musicians following Title Fight’s or Balance And Composure’s legacy is few and far between, or at least has been in my search. And it’s strange because those are bands that have made immense impact on the scene — fans ache for the catharsis that they let manifest through dreary, all-encompassing atmospherics. Think Philly four-piece Nothing and their heavy shoegaze saturating all of their songs with an intensely dull backdrop. secret girl are refreshing in their mastery of this dark magic. “The death of past, the death of present / Death of future, death of friends,” Liu murmurs on “present,” before later illustrating an enigmatic portrayal of grief: “My body bleeds from sounds I’m hearing / I never heard them but they’re ringing / Our ghosts surround me always singing.”

The closing track, “kind,” is the least dreary of the three, still containing this greyness, but bouncing a bit. There’s defeat circulating the song as Liu dejectedly sings, “I’ll just leave now / Go away now / Please and thank you / Letting me know.” It’s the same resignation that drenched the EP in grey: caused by depression in “awake,” by death in “present,” and now by heartbreak. It ends on a note that feels like the proper conclusion to all of these turmoils: “I’m just waiting for that day / For me to say that I’m okay.”

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demo EP - secret girl

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