Xenomania is a name near and dear to my heart, conjuring cherished memories of gift-wrapped kitty cats and angels with dirty faces.

The prolific UK production house, helmed by pop genius Brian Higgins, is largely responsible for shaping my pop sensibilities during my most impressionable years: from Dannii Minogue‘s “All I Wanna Do” to Cher‘s “Believe” to Girls Aloud‘s 20 consecutive Top 10 single reign (and all the album tracks in between), to Annie, Sugababes, Kylie Minogue, Florrie, The Saturdays – literally, the list goes on and on and on, but there’s a Wikipedia for that.

It cannot be overstated: I owe my pop nerd-dom largely to a perfect storm of PopJustice forums and Xenomania productions.

But time’s gone on. The music industry’s changed. The general public’s taste shifted. Life got cold. And (Western) girl groups are now all but extinct.

So, leave it to Xenomania to kick-start the year with Something New.

Chloe, Siobhan (a winning girl group member name, always), Soipan and Tiah are unperfect. Their debut single is called “Gots to Give the Girl” and, perhaps you’ll agree, there’s undeniably, intriguingly, unperfectly something here.

The track requires a certain kind of patience – a bold demand in a time of barely 3-minute long #NewMusicFriday streaming optimized pop bops – as it gradually, unperfectly unfolds in all of its ’90s R&B-leaning, guitar-strumming retro-fresh soul sound. But the song, as well as the group itself, is refreshing in its unbothered, cooler than the red dress simplicity.

Despite not quite being an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink banger like a “Love Machine” or “Sexy! No, No, No” – the chill sound is nothing near the Aloud, for that matter – that signature Xenomania DNA (you can’t mistake that biology!) is very much embedded in the track: the melodies, like that “don’t touch too hard, no, you can’t get it” line, scream Xeno, as does that staggered, hook-to-hook song structure.

“We have spent the past two years in a whirlwind of studio sessions, video shoots and rehearsals building unperfect from an idea of a different kind of girl group into our reality. ‘Gots To Give The Girl’ represents us as independent, grounded young women who know exactly what we want. This is the first step on our path and we can’t wait to get going!” the band declares.

Their overall energy as a group, at least from a first glimpse, recalls Sugababes 1.0 (and/or MKS) and All Saints, mixed with the earliest, most rough-’round-the-edges post-Pop Idol iteration of the Almighty Aloud and the short-lived Mania. And without trying to do too much more comparing, there’s a hint of that Spice Girls camaraderie from the get-go.

“We don’t wanna be seen as the ultimate, perfect-looking women. We all have our flaws, and we are a bit rough cut,” says Tiah.

This is obviously just the beginning of what’s to come, but backed by trusty Xenomania, with a whole collection of songs recorded (uptempo bangers are coming, fear not!) and several videos already in the can, these girls have (the) promise to carry the torch, and just might be onto…something kinda ooooh.

“Gots to Give the Girl” was released on January 25. (iTunes)

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Photo credit: Xenomania