Album Review: Muncie Girls – ‘Fixed Ideals’

Posted: by The Editor

If I could see my life, maybe I could compartmentalize the dark and the light” is a line softly sang on Muncie Girls’ freshest LP, Fixed Ideals. This one lyric seems to follow the record – representing the project in it’s most stripped and vulnerable state. The struggle to balance our brightest and darkest sides isn’t a foreign concept, and the group doesn’t shy away from expressing that here. Reflected in the album’s artwork (which features depictions of both the sun and the moon) and the tides of lyricism against musicality, the theme proves to be a prominent stance for Muncie Girls, but especially for their lead lyricist and vocalist, Lande Hekt.

Hailing from Exeter, England, Muncie Girls formed in 2010 under the foundation of the British punk-rock wave. With their robust attitudes and rowdy instrumentals, the group seamlessly found a place in the scene. Over the years, though, they’ve flitted in and out of the circle as their sound has evolved into softer edges and quirkier tones. Hekt’s vocals are reminiscent of the brash women found in the Alt-90’s scene. Her persona is that of a more soft-spoken yet saucy version of Liz Phair and Alanis Morisette, almost as if they concocted her themselves. This has caused the band to feed into the indie-punk genre more and more.

Hekt might reference her scuffle with compartmentalizing the dark and light within herself in her writing, but the record, itself, seems to have no issue stabilizing it. For every melancholic lyric sung, there’s a glowing instrumental that beams overtop it. And if one thought Muncie Girls have allowed the indie development to overindulge their sound, they’re wrong as dazzling, bright flares of their punk roots still have their shining moments throughout Fixed Ideals. As cleverly executed in their opener, “Jeremy,” the group lashes forward with driving guitars and gritty musicality found only in the infrastructure of punk-rock. It’s soaked in angst and tangy vocals as Hekt growls about her absent and dismissive father – proving they still shake hands with their roots when called for. “Locked Up” is another track that nods to Punk ideals as it lists off societal toxicity and mentality, facing the politics of the world in a booming 1:44.

The following tracks of Fixed Ideals aren’t as blatant with the punk references as they focus on balancing the gleaming light of the instrumentals through the dark cracks that is the subject matter touched on. It’s worth noting that Hekt’s slightly-upturned tone in her deliveries gives off blips of positiviity in an otherwise downcast-written album, as well. These radiating passes from her and the musicality is appreciated in tracks like “Clinic” that details the lack of financial backing and validity of mental health services, “Family of Four” that recalls the struggles of being a sibling out of three in a single-mother household, “High” that is incredibly upbeat and charged for a track that has lyrics like, “I just want to feel real,” and “Fig Tree” that not only references Sylvia Plath but ruggedly shows distate for the unwanted advancements of misogynistic men in Hekt’s persevering yet saucy tone.

Fixed Ideals does offer fleeting yet impressionable acts of optimism and buoyancy that coincides with the yellow-tinged musicality, though. Hekt feeds the audience with more hopeful words in the likes of “Picture of Health” that has her being painfully aware of the present issue of her mental health (“I’ve been having a hard time looking after myself“), yet finding the lighter side of the situation by paying homage to the friends that have supported her through it. This is sang under the current of a fast-paced and airy alt-90’s flare. “Falling Down” reflects a transition of growth as Hekt declares to take control of her emotions, expectations, and the rough patches she wades through (“I’m gonna stop smiling when it doesn’t feel like the right thing“), as “Bubble Bath” is a more surface-level approach to growing up and the nostalgia of youth flesh with a wispy and dainty tone featuring the quirky sound effects of a bubble bath.

The stand-out of the album is demonstrated by the maturation of “Laugh Again.” The track takes on the perspective of the other side, offering a flicker of character development from the blossoming of the record. Hekt is shown here selflessly wanting her friend to be happy again – begging to try anything to hear their genuine laughter. The simple yet admirable song is a tumbling growth from the content of “Picture of Health” that chronicles her experience being in the friend’s position.

As Joseph Conrad wrote in Heart of Darkness, ” I know that sunlight can be made to lie, too,” – Muncie Girls’ Fixed Ideals illustrating that clearly. Regardless of the sunny musicality and upbeat vibes, Hekt’s torn words are at the forefronts of the project. Being an album that specifically highlights how one wrestles with the lightness and darkness that is innate in us all, the indie-punk group faultlessly balances that within the radiant instrumentals and tense lyricism. Even through the small hiccups and filler tracks that do bumble about on the record, the group grapples and pushes forward to provide a solid sophomore LP. By the last track’s fade, there might not be much left to say but there is an underlying message of finding the greener grass of situations… Unless you’re Jeremy Clarkson because as Hekt snarls, “Fuck Jeremy Clarkson.”

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great/ Phenomenal

Hope Ankney | @hope_ankleknee

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