For their sophomore effort, Women returned to the same Calgary studio that had birthed their 2008 debut, the basement of fellow musician/neighbor Chad Van Gaalen. Women felt compromised by the deliberately messy recording techniques and attendant hisses and squeals. Public Strain uses similar æsthetics as a smart counterpunch to the downright proggy twists and melodic gems buried throughout. In short, it's a triumph. Yes, it's still messy, and yes, Patrick Flegel's apathetic nasal vocals are too saturated, or buried in the mix, or both, but the intricate musicianship and songwriting take this from "yet another lo-fi garage album" to mini masterpiece. After beginning with the red herring of "Can't You See," where Chris Reimer's bowed guitar and cellos create an onerous drone, the album quickly gains its footing with "Heat Distraction," a dictionary definition of "angular" whose dual guitars and unsettling time changes recall Sonic Youth and Swell Maps, respectively. The second half burns with lockstep grooves and spiky guitars. Matt Flegel's basslines flex some serious versatility, anchoring the krautrock rhythm of "China Steps," probing the upper registers on the beautiful ballad "Venice Lockjaw," and driving the melodies of the shimmering "Locust Valley" and the coup-de-grâce closer, "Eyesore," a six-minute-plus recap of everything that's been right in Women's career.
WOMEN + DD/MM/YYYY + SUPERVOLCANO | Great Scott, 1222 Comm Ave., Allston | October 6 at 9 pm | $10 | 18+ | 617.566.9014 or greatscottboston.com