The 12 (or so) Records of Xmas: Giant Drag – Hearts & Unicorns

[a.k.a. #13 of However Many I Care to List, in No Particular Order: Albums That I Have Listened To Both Intermittently And Incessantly, That I Imagine I Will Continue To Listen To Periodically For The Remainder Of My Life, Which I Consider To Be The Seminal Works Of (Or Most Accessible Entry Points To) Musical Artists Whom I Believe Have Been Woefully Underrated And Criminally Underrepresented In The Modern Music Canon At Large, And Which Also At Some Point While Playing I Have Very Likely Been Asked To Turn Down or Turn Off]

I don’t remember exactly what it was that tipped me off to the existence of Giant Drag, but I do know that it happened sometime in early 2010, and that I was kind of pissed off that no one had told me about them earlier. Perhaps it’s easier to see now that I’ve laid all these albums out in a row, but if some girl with a unique, childlike voice is shredding an electric guitar in 2005 like it was still 1995, anyone who knows me should have immediately thought, “Yeah, Billy needs to hear this.”

I can just hear her pitching this video: “How about I just lie there the whole time?”

It turns out Annie Hardy is a lot more than just “some girl.” You really have to see her perform live to get the fullest sense of her quirky personality and decidedly dark sense of humor, but her band’s debut album Hearts and Unicorns does its best to capture and convey that no-fucks-left-to-give spirit, through both the song titles themselves (“YFLMD” stands for “You Fuck Like My Dad”), and through numerous samples of Hardy joking around between takes or whooping up it on the nonsensical bonus tracks.

All that would be for naught if the songs themselves weren’t the solid, riff-filled slabs of rock that they are. Based in power chords, but colored with dissonance and well-placed lead lines, tracks like “High Friends in Places” and “My Dick Sux” are perfect vehicles for Annie’s emotional exorcisms. Somewhat more downtempo/less in-your-face tracks (“Cordial Invitation,” “Pretty Little Neighbor,” “Smashing”) fare equally well, and by the end she even conquers poppier material with the Spinanes-esque closing original “Slayer” and her kick-ass version of one of the most covered songs ever, Chris Isaak‘s signature “Wicked Game.”

Since Giant Drag’s quick rise in 2005 and 2006, which included a set at Coachella, it’s been a somewhat bumpier road for Annie & Co. The band basically dropped out of sight for the latter half of the 2000’s, with drummer/keyboardist Micah Calabrese in and out of the lineup. The excellent EP Swan Song finally appeared in 2010, and the long-awaited 2nd full-length album Waking Up Is Hard to Do was independently released in 2013.

The second album is a worthy successor to the first (if perhaps a bit slower to grow on you), but understandably, much of Giant Drag’s audience had lost focus over the intervening years. Subsequently, Annie’s battles in the arena of life intensified. Already plagued by persistent pain due to fibromyalgia, several instances of devastating personal tragedy might have taken a lesser artist out of the game for good. Instead, Annie channeled her pain and grief into more music, this time a solo record, a highly emotional collection of new songs entitled Rules. And, true to its name, it does.

Annie Hardy - Rules

Still, it’s good to know Giant Drag as a band has not been permanently retired. They recently reincarnated to perform a closing set at 2018’s Echo Park Rising festival, standing amongst a field of papier-mâché mushrooms and a cardboard birthday cake with electric candles glowing on it throughout their set. To know I’ll be able to see Annie live on stage again certainly qualifies as “stuff to live for.”

Annie Hardy - Train
Here comes the train…
Annie Hardy

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