Clocking in at almost 50 minutes, The New Life is a long-form evolution for Girls Names. The band's 2011 debut Dead to Me was filled with staccato bursts of '80s indie pop clangs, thrashed out with the sort of breathless urgency that suggested the Belfast trio-since upgraded to a quartet-had its eyes on something much more substantial. Turns out it did: the follow-up.
In almost every way, The New Life fills out the adolescent bones of its predecessor. Traces of the wide-eyed Orange Juice-styled jangling still make a cameo in these 10 tracks, but this is a darker, more groove-orientated affair, led by insidious basslines that snake between the chasmal chimes of "A Second Skin" and "Hypnotic Regression."
Thematically, it's a record that revolves around solitude and this maudlin sense of confinement lurks in every nook: "Drawing Lines" is driven by a noose-tight guitar line that leads the charging melody; the up-tempo prang of "The Olympia" belies frontman Cathal Cully's spectral yearns; and the colossal title track is a seven-minute whirl of romantic melancholy bathed in chasmal reverb.
For anyone who's witnessed Girls Names live, none of this will surprise. The record's rhythmic nuance and towering structures represents a natural next step for a band that's worked hard to revise its sonic palette since its debut. It may lack the sun-drenched thrill of Dead to Me, but that was never the intention. The New Life is a fully-formed long player that yields rewards over time, not just 50 minutes.