A stylistic push-and-pull between dueling vocalists/guitarists Holly Miranda and Josh Abbott, the Jealous Girlfriend’s self-titled second album is a cat’s cradle of arcing musical directions, with the band (and the music) spiraling back and forth between two extremes.
The songs in which Miranda takes the lead, such as “Secret Identity,” “Roboxulla,” and “Machines,” are hazily beautiful dream-pop nebulae haunted by both Miranda’s smoked-glass vocals and 4AD nostalgia. Abbott’s tracks (“How Now,” “Something in the Water”) are the Jealous Girlfriends gone nova — buzzing, stungun guitars thundering around Abbott’s sneering voice in a shoegaze crush of Isn’t Anything-styled arrangements.
This spacey XX/XY dichotomy makes for an engaging if uneven listen, although Miranda’s songs tend to outshine Abbott’s with their ambiguous, aching sensuousness and vocal pyrotechnics. Her voice often dovetails into an androgynous laryngeal hybrid of Billie Holiday and Jeff Buckley, most especially on the jazz-stung slow burn “Organs on the Kitchen Floor,” in which she moves from the quiet smolder of a torch song whisper to a full-throated howl.
Though Abbott is a gifted guitarist and songwriter, within this context (and album space), his tracks seem both slight and slightly out of place, so much so that The Jealous Girlfriend’s bi-polar nature keeps it from becoming a cohesive success, and leaves the disc to orbit and spin—however beautifully—around its own potential.