This is the first full album by synth-pop trio Pixel Grip, a band described as “Chicago’s best kept secret”, and one that will guarantee they don’t stay a secret for much longer. Heavy Handed elaborates on the three singles they’ve released already (Soft Peaks, Diamonds and Plastic Enemies). While Diamonds, a poppy dance tune with vocals reminiscent of Marina and the Diamonds and serving undeniable boogie vibes, remains a favourite, the rest of the album keeps up with and complements these strong singles.
Golden Moses and Can’t Compete rival Diamonds for the best dance track. Each of them layer driving basslines, synth, echoes and glitchy sounds reminiscent of acid house and psychedelic group Jagwar Ma, building to shiny hooks that kill. These tracks transport you to the darkest, dirtiest club you know.
Heavy Handed also showcases some more experimental tracks. Twentyfour is fierce, spacey and a little creepy as it descends into monosyllabic nonsense and repetition of the chorus (“I’m twenty-four, you’re twenty-five”) to the point of sinister abstraction. Body Like That tells a story about girls with bad reputations and murderers, ending on a fem power message. It’s a little funkier but equally eerie, building to echoey screams and decaying to breathy vocals and bare steel drum and bass.
One of Pixel Grip’s greatest strengths is Rita Lukea’s vocal ability. She manipulates her voice to sound angelic, breathy, playful and borderline silly in some instances or aggressive, deep and menacing or undeniably seductive in others. The album seamlessly hits many levels while all tracks remain tight, genre-bending and addictive. Pixel Grip are serving up some clever, freaky, boogie-worthy tracks and it’s an absolute treat to listen.