The most surprising thing about the debut full-length from She-Devils is just how accomplished it sounds. The duo’s backstory has you ready for something pretty messy and discordant; Audrey Ann Boucher and Kyle Jukka met four years ago, two scrappy kids just about getting by in the arts scene in the Mile-Ex neighbourhood of Montreal. You get the impression that they were as inspired by the visual arts, especially film, as they were music - Audrey had never played any of the latter before forming this band.
It’s disarming how assured she sounds on ‘She-Devils’, especially given that the pair claim to have used “primitive electronic gear” with which to record. It’s a perfectly mid-fi indie pop album with occasional experimental inflections, such as the constantly undulating structure of the tense ‘Make You Pay’, or the quietly unsettling bed of synths that runs beneath ‘Blooming’.
Elsewhere, attempts to imbue the relatively straightforward songwriting with eccentric touches fall flat; ‘The World Laughs’ would have been quite alright as it was without the cartoonish sound effects that flutter away in the background, and Audrey’s rootless vocal on closer ‘Buffalo’ doesn’t fit the glacial pace of the instrumentation behind it. It’s when the duo embrace a more traditional pop identity that ‘She-Devils’ really takes off - the gentle simmer of opener ‘Come’ being a case in point, as well as the grippingly melodic ‘You Don’t Know’, which recalls Vivian Girls at their finest. The standout, meanwhile, is the brooding ‘Never Let Me Go’. She-Devils have turned out a perfectly competent and frequently compelling, debut here - it’s just not one that squares with the tall tales they’ve told in support of it. Drop your expectations of freak pop from another dimension, and there’s plenty to like.