TV Girl’s aesthetic is a cocktail of technicolor leg kicks. Old footage with cigarette burns. Scissors slicing through stacks of magazines – all back issues. Brad Petering is the musician behind the color flecked project. His pop culture compass is enormous, but he favors the hum and hiss of older recordings. 60s girl groups, 70s NYC brownstones, and French artists. A Todd Rundgren sample perforating speakers with a lick of warm distortion. The era romanticism is omnipotent, yes, but it’s distilled through a contemporary filter. Petering’s sardonic and self-referential lyrics give a vulnerable lilt to the floating instrumentals and backing beats – it’s a wondrous feast of deliberately bullheaded machismo, confessional bloodletting, and intellectual awareness. This, set to spectral reverb, detached vocal samples, and mid-nineties hip-hop drum loops.
TV Girl’s unique marriage of sound, history, and pathos is a testament to our generation’s fascination with information and instant gratification. Academia through exhaustion. With Petering’s latest record, Who Really Cares, the contemptuous fatigue is more available than ever. From emotional self-mortification to sleazy fantasy, it’s a promenade of guilt, satisfaction, and botched theory. Above all else, it’s content with its confusion. Maturation through honesty. Where this all comes together, more than any other track on the album, is on “Song About Me” – a four-minute carousel of communication mired by doubt.
With it’s carnal themes and unreliable narrator, Petering’s lyrics feel perfectly bare – a refusal to retreat. It’s a slideshow of revised history. Here, the statements condemning his doomed relationship are rebutted by Madison Keaton’s spitfire vocals. It’s a structural feat that brings to mind The Postal Service’s “Nothing Better”. Electric waves being met by volleys of sadness and defeat. Meanwhile, the pattering of artifice comes in the form of a drum kit. “Song About Me” lives in a dream, floating somewhere between a DJ Premier beat and a track from the band Ride. The combination of horror, attraction, and emotional stasis is jarringly hypnotic. A popcorn ceiling texture. Petering’s lyrics seer with both depth and simplicity. Sex as resignation. Beauty as burden. And the chorus is shrill discord; nothing short of an uncanny valley. A battle cry through the waves of a dream. It is, quite strangely, perfect in its sadness.