At just 23 minutes, the New Bloods’ The Secret Life is over before it ever has a chance to really set in—which turns out to be ideal for a debut album. It takes about 10 minutes to realize that those jagged guitar lines ripped from Sleater-Kinney’s Dig Me Out aren’t made by guitar at all, but by Osa Atoe’s violin. From there, The Secret Life gets a lot more interesting than you might have guessed from its first impression as standard-issue post-punk revivalism.
The standard-issue parts—the bouncy, up-front bass, the primitive and heavy drums, the off-kilter group vocals—are good enough on their own to make The Secret Life a promising, if earnest, introduction. But Atoe’s versatility is remarkable, and her shifts in tone, from a sharp imitation of punk guitar to the keening edge of closing tracks “Behind Mountains” and “The Sea Is Alive in Me,” invest the disc with a sense of vitality and eternity. There’s something old about the second half of The Secret Life, starting with the a cappella “Day After Day,” which recalls both the choral tradition and old-fashioned shape-note singing.