At the beginning of the pandemic, a tweet went around reminding folks that Shakespeare completed King Lear in the midst of a plague.
As with all actions and quotes attributed to William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, or any other historical figure, this may or may not be true. But the message was crystal clear: If you don’t use this time to produce a major artistic work, you’ve made poor use of our very own plague years.
As the many half-completed woodworking projects, aborted 5,000-piece puzzles, and woefully incomplete succulent arrangements of the past year-and-a-half demonstrate, few of us have accomplished.
King Willow — that’s San Francisco-based sisters Amanda and Julianna Salguero — might have pulled it off. Like many bands that stayed productive over 2020, their first LP, Dream Girl, was recorded at home, but this one has some serious polish where previous releases have shone with a scrappy indie charm.
Dream Girl is a loose concept album, following “regular girl” Amanda as she transforms into “Dream Girl,” who lives in a daydream. However, for all the inherent whimsy that comes with a concept, Dream Girl takes it down a notch.
The pair have always sung with a wink and a nod, but first single “Selfish” is more sedate, bordering on morose — at least in comparison to previous, more rollicking numbers like “Your Band” and “Talk Like That,” and the music video is a pastel, plush-animal dream. There are still a few cheeky nods here and there, like the sardonic “Stay At Home Order” and the gun-cocking sound effect in “Kiddie Pool.”
Is this their King Lear? It’s certainly more subdued in comparison to their usually chipper output, which is perhaps to say that it reflects the “the weight of this sad time we must obey” (Scene 5, Act 3).
Dream Girl can be found on King Willow’s Bandcamp.