Album Review: Semi Sweet, ‘A Little Bitter’

19 May

With their self-titled debut EP last year, Costa Mesa’s Semi Sweet established themselves as Orange County’s premier purveyors of female-fronted, lo-fi, moody indie rock. (Not that there’s many contenders to that title right now, but it’s an accomplishment nonetheless.)


Since that record, the five-piece have honed their skills with a gaggle of live gigs—including a residency this past January at Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa—and recorded a bizarre, bloody video for “Sleazy,” which was filmed at, where else, Detroit Bar. This month they’re releasing their second EP, the cheekily titled A Little Bitter, at, yep, Detroit Bar. (They’re at Detroit Bar a lot.)

It’s another four songs – the band tells that they’re creating a “collection of EPs” – that see Semi Sweet stick closely to the stylistic territory explored in the first release. There are some definite signs of growth – keyboard player Heather Patton’s intro on “Grounded” is more classical and measured than their usual in-your-face aesthetic, remaining throughout the song like an underlying musical adhesive, keeping the opening track together as it gradually builds to a noisy finale. But what they’re really doing is refining the approach seen in the first EP. “Sleazy” sounds a lot like the debut record’s “Times Like These,” but with a more memorable melody and a distinctive stuttering chorus built for singing along.

Lead singer and guitarist Cassie Walter sounds a little more confident here overall, especially while navigating the lively phrasings of “Sell Out,” the most upbeat song they’ve released thus far.

Semi Sweet have opted for rather literal album art, with the EP cover depicting an old-timey lollipop covered by red ants; as eye-catching and disturbing as the visuals in the “Sleazy” video. This is a band that knows what they’re doing, and it’s easy to already be a little excited for their next release.

Semi Sweet are scheduled to play Thursday, May 20, at Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa, with The Relative Strangers, Black Parlor Sand and Charles Mansion (21+); semisweetband.com.

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