What separated Girls from their San Francisco garage-pop peers back on 2009’s Album was the sensitivity. Christopher Owens’ voice was so warm, hopeful, yet damaged as he sung about various women (“Laura,” “Lauren Marie”), and his partner and producer Chet “JR” White treated the songs with just as much loving discomfort. Two years later, the pair has picked up a supporting cast and loads of confidence for Girls’ second album, Father, Son, Holy Ghost. On the opener, “Honey Bunny,” Girls travel to the beach looking for love, with Owens doing his best Brian Wilson over gushing surf guitar and jangling tambourines. With “Die,” Girls deliver 90 seconds of blistering psych-rock that closes with Owens screaming, “We’re all gonna die!”, plus a King Crimson-worthy Mellotron solo. “Vomit” is a panoramic epic propelled by whirring organ, Mogwai-style guitar doom, and bona fide gospel wails. “Just A Song” wallows in folksy despair, while “Magic” bounces forth with loose new-wave aplomb.
In another band’s hands, all this stretching would seem sophomoric, but Girls have always been great at grasping. Though Owens’ grip still falters when it comes to the other girls in his world, his group’s astounding expansion seems to correspond with his discovering a more universal love: “If you don’t have a little love in your soul, nothing’s gonna get any better,” he sings on “Forgiveness.” What was once just sensitive has become downright spiritual.