Christopher Owens, lead singer for Girls, has a lot of problems with, um, girls. “They don’t like my bony body / they don’t like my dirty hair / or the stuff that I say / or the stuff that I’m on,” he sings on “Honey Bunny,” which opens “Father, Son, Holy Ghost,” the group’s second album. Owens and partner Chet White broaden their scope — especially sonically — from their much-praised 2009 debut, “Album,” but they never fail to return to the pains of love. And listening to their anguish proves a sumptuous experience, one that comes close to justifying the group’s critical hosannas.
Much has been made of Girls’ musical evocation of the Beach Boys, but this thoroughly listenable record leaps off from a host of recent scintillating guitar-pop touchstones: “My Ma” and “Alex” evoke Blake Sennett’s side project the Elected (give “Me First” a spin), while “Saying I Love You” and “Magic” shimmer and whoosh like Teenage Fanclub.
While you could play spot-the-influence all night with “Father, Son,” there is an emotional edge in Owens’s singing that infuses these songs with a gripping buzz. Attribute that to his personal background, but the band’s real magic happens when his voice latches on to a glimmering guitar chord and takes off in tender flight.
“Father, Son” suggests that Girls may have just scratched the surface of its explorations. Where “Album” felt like a glorified demo tape, these tracks are thoughtfully polished, with intros and codas as savory as their juicy choruses. Here’s hoping Owens doesn’t settle down, straighten up and find the right girl anytime soon.
“Honey Bunny,” “My Ma,” “Magic”