Michelle Broder Van Dyke

Grass Widow – “Shadow”

For no reason that I can actually take credit for, I feel pretty proud of these ladies. They live intentionally, they defy stereotypes, and they harmonize while rocking. In 2010, Grass Widow also had its major-indie debut on Kill Rock Stars — one of the few San Fran stars that can make such a claim — with Past Time.

The album opens with surf-rock-y “Uncertain Memory,” where Hannah Lew’s bass lines and Raven Mahon’s guitar riffs intertwine, while Lillian Maring’s frantic drumming hurtles the songs forward. It is followed by single “Shadow,” which showcases their affection for the Kinks along with the band’s aforementioned blended vocals singing the phrase “don’t let me down.” “Fried Egg” starts with a call-and-response verse, reminiscent of the bad-ass-ness of the Kill Rock Stars banner, and then surprises the listener with chiming post-punk guitars and saccharine vocals that sing of murky nightmares. The album closes with “Tuesday” a swift number with wooly harmonies, fast-tempo chants as well as a little chaos with its off-kilter melody progression.

With each listen, the hooks on Past Time reel me in more. But it’s the sweet and sour taste of Grass Widow that always gets me; how can something be so dark — with the horrors of the subconscious seeping in at every crack—but sound so pretty? This may be Grass Widow’s first Kill Rock Stars release, but it’s their fifth-record in less than three years. I can’t wait to hear what this prolific band releases in 2011.

Michelle Broder Van Dyke writes for the San Francisco Chronicle, Bay Guardian and The Bold Italic.