Tacoma band Goldfinch amassed a sizable regional following with a thoughtful and affecting take on roots music. Thankfully, despite the band being no more, former Goldfinch members Grace Hope and Aaron Stevens have leapt back into music-making in a big way with their new project, exdreams. And Artist Home is proud to premiere the band’s first single, “It’s Not Sex.”
At first glance, exdreams couldn’t be a sharper about-face. Goldfinch crafted organic, very acoustic indie folk: exdreams is taut, polished, decidedly club-worthy dance music. But a readiness to dig deeply into raw, unvarnished emotions runs through both.
“It’s Not Sex” is just one of the highlights of Physical Contact, exdreams’ great debut release. The record sees Hope, Stevens, and Tacoma-born, LA-based producer DuWayne “DJ” Phinisey collaborating as songwriters. It’s a fertile collaboration, with Hope steering the ship as frontwoman/focal point. The end result sets catharsis and self-reflection, partly spurred by Hope’s recent divorce, to a sharp dance groove.
The aforementioned split has been, by all accounts, a kind and caring process (she and her ex-husband remain good friends), but any seismic life change carries with it a mess of conflicting emotions. Hope acknowledges them all. And that frankness gives this silky, danceable record unexpected power and welcome substance.
You can remain friends with an ex-lover, Hope reasons, and yet still feel every dimension of pain at the relationship’s death. On Physical Contact’s opening track, “$exdream$,” she’s painfully open about the naked vulnerability (“Stable/with you I felt safe”) and denial (“I don’t want to call anybody else baby”) stirred up in the wake of the split. Phinisey’s spare, ethereal production keeps the feel pensive: A sense of unease percolates underneath the beats, and it perfectly mirrors the emotions on display.
Physical Contact delivers conflict and inner turmoil with hooks, sensuality, and assurance to spare. There’s an irresistible ‘80s electro-soul vibe coursing through the mix on “Matchlands,” even as it makes not-so-veiled inferences to using alcohol as an emotional crutch. And while Hope and company lay out an unbeatable melodic hook on “It’s Not Sex,” Hope also allows herself to become genuinely pissed: ”Nude on a stage/Strauss’s Salome/I was calling for your head on a plate.” Phinisey wisely puts Hope’s expressive, limber voice front and center, keeping the beats concise, imaginative, and nigh-impossible to resist.
There’s sensuality to burn on even the most emotionally raw songs on Physical Contact. Sex is a refuge as well as a release on the wonderful “Bodybang,” with Hope’s voice ascending gorgeously on the chorus, and the lyrics really raising the temperature (“Head banging, body banging, between my knees”). “Beatboy,” in particular, strikes a flat-out celebratory tone as Hope and a lover explore one another with abandon (“’practice all your favorite moves on me/play with me on repeat”).
On the album’s closer, “Wildlife,” Hope uses animal imagery to convey a sense of liberation from old confines. And while her personal journey may be the initial inspiration here, there’s something wonderfully universal about the combination of nervousness and excitement in her voice, and in the sense of adventure pulsing through the anthemic chorus. In the world as mirrored through exdreams, this is indeed a wild, wild life—but it’s one in which surviving adversity opens up unexpected possibilities.
Physical Contact is now available for digital download at iTunes.