Fronted by producer/composer Andy Sharp, Girling emerged in the early Aughts as a side project to local nebbish pop kingpins Kissinger. More than a decade later, Songs About Friends resonates with the spirit of that era, the key difference being Sharp's sonic acumen. Arrangements that transcend the pop-punk pedigree give uncommon heft to a bumper crop of scrappy sentiments. "Shitstorm" festoons its crunched-up hooks with artful bursts of strings that add cinematic weight to clever wordplay about crazy young love doomed to go south. "I promise not to break your heart," Sharp deadpans. "I'm much more into legs and arms." The horn-driven "I Hate Chicago" turns relationship woes into a brightly lit, dark-humored broadside against the Windy City itself. Embarrassing? Perhaps. Like Nick Hornby's most memorable characters, Girling's bewildered man/boy protagonist is eminently relatable, even at his most cringeworthy.
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