Carrboro songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Skylar Gudasz has only been backed by The Ugly Girls—guitarist William Taylor (Wylie Hunter), bassist Casey Toll (Mount Moriah, Lizzy Ross) and drummer Paul Fisher (Tripp)—for about a year now. Despite the quartet's short history, its debut, Two Headed Monster, finds the group possessing the refinement of seasoned veterans. Gudasz's sharp pop sensibilities and rich lyrical imagery mesh well with lush folk-centered arrangements that jangle and flash with the occasional rock or jazz influence.
Gudasz's gentle, melodic fingerpicking and producer Jeff Crawford's soft organ accents are the sole support to her languid vocal on the slowly swelling opener "Let's Not Talk About the End of the World," a brief yet appropriate welcome for the moody record. Gudasz and company demonstrate their range across the seven-track effort, which clocks in at just under 30 minutes, from bright, summery toe-tappers with pop-perfect three-part harmonies ("Killing" and "Nightstand") to deliberate ballads with drama heightened by guest Lauren Paynter's elegant touches of violin ("Bison" and "Winter/ Song To a Muse"). Gudasz's smooth singing melts over the tastefully orchestrated tunes and richly detailed tales. Although Monster's relatively subtle hooks sometimes take multiple listens to grab hold, that's a minor quibble for this young band. Their maturity and versatility set high expectations for a mighty fine future.