May 23, 2016

LP: girl valley - soften up

girl valley's soften up is our favorite mystery.

A good mystery carries with it a sort of risky intoxication – the innate sense that some things are best left in the dark as we reluctantly reach out our fingers and attempt to tear the veil away, anyway. When it comes to the context surrounding girl valley, this impression lingered as I leafed through fruitless Google searches and discovered nothing save for a cryptic Facebook bio written by a faceless “sydney h”: “just makin noise.” While lost in the depths of an internet wormhole (a Valley Girl (1983) screenshot of Nicolas Cage in one tab and a “valley girl” Urban Dictionary definition in the other), it hit me that attempting to unravel such a deliberate puzzle is the equivalent of someone scribbling all over a lockbox because they can’t guess the code. It’s innocent enough, but irritating and pointless. If sydney h were to color girl valley with an internet persona, it would undoubtedly cheapen the scratching raw currents that flow throughout her eight short releases; the secrecy is pivotal to the effect.

soften up, girl valley’s latest release, is the culmination of years of this anonymous creation. Manifesting fleeting bedroom pop albums since July 2013 with titles like sure. fine. whatever. sydney h is the queen of making music that doesn’t take itself too seriously, while simultaneously refusing to hide behind a blanket of sterile indifference. Delving through her discography, we find albums such as some things good, which sounds like escaping your hometown on a sunset drive, and june/july ii, which is breezier, more hopeful. With soften up, however, we find an artist who’s transforming, pulling scatterings from each of her former releases but unafraid to reach further. Freed by the screen that separates her life from her work (and the small audience that plays her hushed voice through headphones in grocery stores), sydney h is able to lay herself bare. Every string pick is palpable, every crack in her voice exposed, as if we’re peeling back the layers separating her bedroom from ours. As such, the experience isn’t voyeuristic so much as an invitation; to share, to break down our own barriers, and maybe even discover small glimpses of ourselves in someone else’s world.


Lauren Ball, an investigative journalism student based in Chicago, IL. She's excited to help derail the patriarchy and overturn capitalistic power structures, but is trying not to get too dramatic here. Check out her work in American Songwriter Magazine, Highlight Magazine, Esoteric Zine, and her poetry in Sobotka Literary Magazine.