Out of today’s dreery blur comes the most underrated project of the year, Women’s EP Rarities 2007-2010. The Calgary quartet is known for their mix of discordant noise rock paired with ambient melodies and songwriting on a masterful level.
The band released two critically acclaimed albums (2008’s Self-Titled debut and 2010’s Public Strain) before a well-publicized breakup ended the group. In 2012, guitarist Christopher Reimer passed away suddenly in his sleep.
In the wake of the band’s dissolution, its members moved on to form successful projects of their own. Bassist Matt Flegel and Drummer Michael Wallace are the centerpiece of Preoccupations (formerly known as Viet Cong). And Pat Flegel creates retro-50s inspired pop in Cindy Lee. As time draws on, the memory of Women looms large over these projects and have become a standard reference for a crop of new bands within this decade’s post-punk arrival.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Public Strain’s release, Jagjaguwar and Flemish Eye announced a new edition of the album that included a collection of unreleased and sought after material from the band’s catalog. The five track EP bears its soul and creates yet another touchstone for listeners to envelope themselves in.
Opening track, “Everyone Is So In Love With You” features a solemn violin that ruminates, joined by a whispering ukulele as Pat Flegel’s haunting vocals echo in a majestic fashion recreates a siren’s call for a funeral pyre burning on a lonely isle. “Now that all your time is gone / Now that your time is overdrawn,” Flegel swoons to a departing love as he bids their awakening to see that in the end they’ll be surrounded by those they cherish. The brisk feel of the record continues into the succinct rhythm of “Bullfight,” a track that the band did play live before their breakup. The song is intertwined with spastic guitars that shift between idyllic to panicked while Wallace’s drums maintain balance along Pat Flegel’s falsetto. Lyrics like “Out of timid words / Morphed and withered nerves,” illustrate a lonesome wanderer wishing to escape the shackles of his worrisome mind as he shambles along an empty street under the “artificial light.”.
Women’s songwriting prowess allows listeners to imagine these stories of lonesome souls in the night.
“Service Animal” takes its place as the most straightforward track that manages to grow strange as the sharp-toned, dueling guitars of Reimer and Pat Flegel slice away before sudden progressions unwind. The anxiety ridden track gives way to the dreamlike transcendence of “Grey Skies” that floats gracefully above the clouds with Flegel’s vocals bidding you to soak in all your “hopes and dreams.”
A crescendo is delivered in an alternative version of “Group Transport Hall” a single from their 2008 debut. Instead of a quickened acoustic lead that feels feathery, this version is a walking monolith of the wall of sound the band was able to create in their live performances. Reverb drenched vocals sit above wailing guitars and thudding drums guided by Matt Flegel’s bass. An anthem for a band whose lasting influence is a gem to those who’re able to discover it.
In their final love letter, Women continue to mesmerize with their ability to capture an array of emotions that summarize the human condition.
Essential Tracks: “Everyone Is So In Love With You,” “Bullfight,” and “Group Transport Hall (Alternate Version)”
Prerequisites: Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and Joy Division’s Closer