Over the past couple of weeks, there have been a whole heap of albums that could be considered big or important or divisive. And even if you don’t necessarily like A$AP Rocky and Jamie xx and Donnie Trumpet And The Social Experiment and Girlpool and Florence + The Machine and Sun Kil Moon, they’ve all made albums worthy of thought and discussion and argument, albums that can dominate a conversation. As I’m writing this, I’ve spent the past few hours on Kanye Watch, waiting for potentially the biggest and most important and most divisive of any of these albums, and I don’t even know if the damn thing is coming. (Update: Nope. Not yet, anyway.) The mere possibility of its arrival is enough to suck the oxygen out of the room. Every one of those records matters and demands consideration. And the way they’re all coming clumped together like this makes for a ridiculously exciting time to be alive and listening to music. But all that importance can be exhausting, and not every album has to reach for the stratosphere, the way all those albums do in profoundly different ways. And that brings us to PINS, a band of young women from Manchester who just released their second LP. The PINS of Wild Nights aren’t reaching for importance or grandeur. They aren’t looking to drive the conversation or to change the face of music. They’re just a very good rock band making very good rock music, taking a familiar stew of influences and just nailing the fuck out of them. They’re not the sort of band you need to know about, necessarily. But if you’re getting dressed up and having a drink before going out for the night, or if you’re going out and driving fast on a sunny day, or if you’re looking for some cool shit to play in the background while you’re getting some work done, they’re the sort of band you want to know about.
There are so many echoes of older genres in PINS’ music: Sashaying early-’60 girl-group pop, giddy mid-’60s garage rock, jangling British indie-pop, gloomily sweeping dream-rock, trace elements of the Go-Go’s and the Cramps and Lush and the Velvet Underground and the Dandy Warhols. These things all tend to pair well together, and the bands that loom hugest in PINS’ sound — the Jesus And Mary Chain, say, or the Cure — also tend to share plenty of influences with the band. And it would be weird if I didn’t mention the Dum Dum Girls, who are almost so obvious a comparison point that I’m reluctant to bring them up at all. The Dum Dum Girls do similar things with similar influences. They’ve got thick production and gauzy guitar tones and sneaky-dangerous hooks, just like PINS. Lead Dum Dum Dee Dee sings in a tough, chilly deadpan, much like lead PIN Faith Holgate. And both bands have even been known to style themselves as mythic greaser-era juvenile-delinquent girl gangs. But there are profound differences, too. While PINS don’t have any as immediately life-conquering as the best Dum Dums songs, they also don’t have the late-album lulls that Dum Dums records can have; their churn is more consistent. Holgate doesn’t push her voice the way Dee Dee does; she lets it sink deep into the pocket of the music, almost talk-singing much of the time. Where you can sometimes diagram what’s going on in a Dum Dum Girls song — oh, that’s a Chrissie Hynde vocal over a Phil Spector drum beat and some Buddy Holly guitar-twinkles — PINS are way less likely to show the seams. Everything just evaporates together into one pulsating fog of cool.
But the thing that sets PINS apart the most is probably a fundamental Britishness that’s hard to completely pin down. There are plenty of American bands with a bit of garage rock in their sound, but I can’t think of any who have this sort of layered thickness. There ain’t a damn thing shoegaze about PINS; they’re too brash and confident and outwardly hooky for that. But there’s a fair bit of, say, Ride in the way they blur all these sounds into each other. This is relatively simple music — catchy guitar lines, atmospheric bass, lots of cymbal splashes. But it’s got that 4AD-style goopy production, where everything is bent around everything else and you can’t mentally separate one sound from the next. In the wrong hands, that production style can make for a boring trudge of an album. But with songs as fundamentally fun and sprightly as the ones PINS bring, it makes for a lovely contrast. The production keeps the hooks from feeling tinny or slight, and the hooks keep the production from taking itself too seriously. It’s a delicate balance, and they pull it off with remarkable panache.
Maybe the most refreshing thing about Wild Nights is that the women in PINS are clearly having fun. The album opens with lyrics about lacquered lips and snake hips and electric skies and dancing till you die — classically silly rock lyrics that mean pretty much nothing but sound awesome anyway. First single “Young Girls” is about being trapped in a boring town and longing for something more, and its big epiphany is “wouldn’t it be fun to kill someone?” Second single “Molly” is about crazy nights out on the town with a friend who won’t let you sleep, and it’s built around a drug pun so ecstatically dumb that it’s already been the basis of a whole bunch of EDM songs. And the band sells these lyrics simply by attaching them to those confident, badass songs. In a climate like this one, it’s easy to lose track of an album that only promises and delivers confident, badass songs in musical forms that you already know well. But there is a place in my life for an album that aims a little lower and hits its target completely. Maybe there’s a place in yours, as well.
Wild Nights is out now on Bella Union. Stream it below.
Other albums of note out today:
• Jenny Hval’s experimental pop opus Apocalypse, girl.
• Franz Ferdinand/Sparks supergroup FFS’s self-titled debut.
• Annabel’s old-school emo basher Having It All.
• No Joy’s full-blooded shoegazer More Faithful.
• Sightings’ noise-rock swan song Amusers And Puzzlers.
• Heartless Bastards’ tough roots-rocker Restless Ones.
• Institute’s throbbing psych-punker Catharsis.
• Prinzhorn Dance School’s spartan post-punker Home Economics.
• Uniform’s scuzzed-out industrial punker Perfect World.
• Fight Amp’s raging fuzz-rocker Constantly Off.
• Former Abe Vigoda member Michael Vidal’s floaty solo debut Dream Center.
• Time Wharp’s self-titled jazzy house debut.
• Tidemouths’ blackened punk ripsnorter Velvet And Stone.
• Galantis’ EDM debut Pharmacy.
• Ancient Sky’s heavy psych LP Mosaic.
• Oso Oso’s prickly punk debut Real Stories Of True People, Who Kind Of Looked Like Monsters.
• Leftfield’s far-out festival-dance album Alternative Light Source.
• Violinist John Metcalfe’s classical-pop crossover The Appearance Of Colour.
• Muse’s Mutt Lange-produced blockbuster progger Drones.
• Arthur Russell’s unreleased archival album Corn.
• Sharon Van Etten’s I Don’t Want To Let You Down EP.
• Year Of Glad’s self-titled EP.
• Angelo De Augustine’s How Past Begins EP.