Hope. Without it, the world falls apart around you. With it, anything is possible. Even beating leukemia. And where better to find it than between harmonies woven by friendship and perseverance.
Girlyman weaves those harmonies into their folk-pop synthesis with aplomb. A quartet, the band is made up of Doris Muramatsu, Nate Borofsky, Tylan Greenstein, and now former Po’ Girl drummer JJ Jones compose emotion-infused songs about the trials and tribulations of life without letting it slip into the dark. The original trio (Muramatsu, Borofsky, and Greenstein) have been together a decade, adding drummer Jones in 2009, but they sound like they’ve been together a lifetime. And I’m sure the time between being diagnosed with leukemia and remission seemed like more than a lifetime for Muramatsu, but it led to the writing of the thirteen songs on Supernova – songs with themes of uncertainty, growth, and hope echoing the different phases of the journey for Doris and the rest of the band as they too used the experience to grow, change, and move on with life.
Supernova holds together as it orbits the sadness and pain of healing, change, and an indomitable spirit. The title track, even in its hopeful melodies, lyrically hits me like Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle into that good night” struggling against the “dying of the light” – as Borofsky’s words say so eloquently “So if you and I are all that’s left / in a universe sad and bereft / Should I smile and say it’s for the best / Or should I shout?” Shout!! Don’t give up!
That said, I’ve never heard any pop song work in so many astronomical terms and concepts – from the Kuiper Belt to “a suborbital parade” of cosmic gases and dust. All while the quartet sing these beautiful lyrics with a bare guitar and cello backing them.
Though I think the guitar and harmony approach seems to be their bread and butter, they also managed to surprise me with songs like “No Matter What I Do.” It’s about falling in love and wondering how to go on… “I keep it all locked inside my chest / Like feeling like shit is for the best / Like feeling the earth still turn no matter what I do…” Been there, done that. Sometimes love makes us realize sometimes that we’ve been treading water we don’t know how to leave the pool. But it’s the delivery that caught my ear with guitar, banjo, piano, and drums that really gives it a ’60s pop feel – full of minor chords and a carnival atmosphere.
These songs are glimpses into that introspective state we all will face when we come to terms with our mortality or even just the simple beginnings and ends that happen every day. Those changes are difficult even in the best of circumstances and it’s how we deal with them that shows our true nature. That Girlyman has chosen to share these private moments with their words, harmonies, and melodies is a true gift.
For more about Girlyman, check out their website and look for Supernova wherever you buy your digital music. CDs will be available on June 19th.
This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.