Not Afraid of the B-Word
Has the word “bitch” been officially repossessed as a female badge of honor? The women behind Costa Mesa’s Semi Sweet are awfully fond of it, dubbing their music “bitch pop” and declaring that the band started with a “bitch fight” between vocalist/guitarist Cassie Walter and drummer Vanessa Barnes.
Semi Sweet’s music is pretty much nothing like, say, noted “bitch” proponent Meredith Brooks, instead focusing on the gloomier side of indie rock, with minor-key-fueled melodies and coolly detached vocals in the same genus as Emily Haines of Metric. The five-piece recently released a four-song, self-titled EP at a show at Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa (where they’ll be returning in January for a month-long Monday night residency); if you missed that, the whole thing is available for free download on their website. On the first track, “Times Like These,” keyboardist Heather Patton’s work underscores the chorus of “It’s times like these, I hope you love me.” “Paperthin” zips along thanks to a distinctive guitar riff that wouldn’t feel out of place on an Interpol song; “Falling” sees Walter stretching a bit vocally, asking, “Why do you just sit back and watch me fall?” Closer “Heart Lock and Key” is the EP’s catchiest, with the much-repeated title beating like a hammer in your head, while not abandoning the band’s well-nuanced aesthetic.
Musically and image-wise, Semi Sweet seem a little too overtly hipster-y to be from Costa Mesa, a place where most bands are far more earnest and life-affirming. Between their darkly tinged tunes and EP cover, which depicts smoke casually seeping out of a woman’s mouth (not to mention all the use of “bitch”), they feel more like an LA or Fullerton band. Once again, OC’s music scene proves more diverse than generally given credit for.
Semi Sweet can be found online at www.semisweetband.com.
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