In 1997, Patrick Fitzgerald—frontman of the recently-split Kitchens of Distinction—got together with his friend, folk musician Heidi Berry, whose label deal with the highly regarded 4AD had come to an end. A collaboration soon began, and over the course of the year, songs were written and recorded, and a three-song single under the name Lost Girls appeared. But health difficulties and a mere desire to move on to greater things caused this promising group to shelve its debut. For those who fell in love with their sole release, the Needle’s Eye single, this was a major loss, as those three songs hinted at something truly special. Jump forward fifteen years, when Patrick Fitzgerald would hint that the duo had recorded an album, one that he figured would never see the light of day—until now.
Lost Girls is two discs’ worth of material long thought lost. The first disc consists of what would have been their debut album—as well as their sole release—while the second includes demos and outtakes from those sessions. What made Needle’s Eye such an appealing record was hearing two well-established artists going outside of their sonic comfort zones. Heidi Berry’s music never had the more upbeat “rock” overtones, while Fitzgerald’s music up to that point had never been as delicate, tender, and upfront. Those three songs, found here, serve the album quite well, though they overstate the electronica side of the project.
The eight other numbers display a breezy variety at play. “NYC,” “Opiated Self-Help Song,” and “Hovercraft” are upbeat singer-songwriter numbers sung by Patrick, and Berry’s voice nicely complements his. It’s the moments where Berry takes the spotlight, though, that really shine stripped of the lush, melancholic luster of her 4AD releases, Berry’s voice on “All Fall Away” and “Forgiven,” she gives Beth Orton a run for her money. The disc, containing demo versions of a few of the album tracks, as well as a handful of of outtakes, contains some great numbers, such as the simple “The Mountaineers” and “Bathing Song,” with Berry’s voice going into a dark, dark place—a haunting A cappella number that will give you chills.
Though initially Lost Girls feels like an opportunity lost, repeated listens only make you forget about the decade and a half these tapes gather dust. While Fitzgerald would continue making music under the guise Stephen Hero, Berry would opt for a quiet, private life as a music professor, and Needle’s Eye would prove to be her last release of new material. This rare gathering of two lost girls, however, is a jewel of a record, a lost treasure, and an album of simple pleasures. And who knows? Maybe they’ll do it again.