Psychedelic. Harmonious. Spirited. Radical. These are just a handful of adjectives that build up the description of the Los Angeles-based indie rock band, Grouplove. Formed in 2009, as lead vocalist Hannah Hooper began a unique friendship with singer-songwriter Christian Zucconi at an art residency on the island of Crete, the band — including bassist Sean Gadd (later replaced by Daniel Gleason in 2014), drummer Ryan Rabin and guitarist Andrew Wessen — combed together their collective funds and created one of the most whimsical underground bands out there today. With their newest album, “Big Mess,” releasing this month, the band sets off on a whole new adventure of national tours, radical new sounds and parenthood.
My first exposure to the quirky yet highly-spirited sounds of Grouplove didn’t come with their first song or even their first independently-released debut album in 2011’s “Never Trust a Happy Song,” but rather with their second release, 2013’s psychedelic foot-tapper “Spreading Rumours.” Becoming absolutely entranced as I uncovered a musical gem of hardcore rock mixed with semi-soothing techno flair, the album eventually became one of my go-to albums for any road trip, run or study session. With that, you could say I was eagerly anticipating the band’s next project. That desire didn’t take too long to satisfy. Showing up on the shores of iTunes one late night around the eve of its release date, September 9th, I instantly tuned into to what looked like Grouplove’s newest masterpiece.
Diving into just what this album, titled “Big Mess,” with its album cover stylized ever so methodically hectic by lead vocalist Hooper, I was surprised just how relevant and emotional this record truly was. Spinning a chaotic journey not only into the band’s personal lives — with its leading couple Hooper and Zucconi just recently becoming parents to an adorable baby girl — but also the tensions of today’s social and political anxieties, the album transported you beyond just listening to music, but rather offered up a satirical staccato sound filled with social commentary to feast on. Foot-tapping and mesmerizing as ever, Grouplove’s newest piece delivered just what you wouldn’t expect: an odd-looking, weirdly-sounding collection of fond memories and brutal truths wrapped up in a fantastically-crafted manifestation of dynamic indie rock.
Reminiscent of other soulful and hard-hitting rock bands like Modest Mouse and Arcade Fire, Grouplove’s newest record had a number of entertaining and fluently fulfilling hits. Led profoundly by its rhythmic and jolting hit single, “Welcome To Your Life,” which presented a phenomenal undertone of newfound fatherhood and enlightening rejuvenation among a rather “messy” world of political corruption and other social anxieties, the rest of the album delivered a unique buffet of powerful themes packed into a chaotic layer of mixed-genre musical stylings. While not every song on the record is as memorable as the hit single, two of my favorite titles off the record had to be the light-hearted “Enlighten Me” and the soothing but catchy “Traumatized.” “Enlighten Me” presented another clear theme of fatherhood, as the lyrics spin a tale of a man “on the fence with common sense” and questioning whether or not he’s ready to become a father. As for “Traumatized,” while the overall theme isn’t as clear as “Enlighten Me,” it did offer up some insight into the leading couple’s maturing relationship as they prepare to bring their child into this “big mess” of a world.
Overall, if you enjoyed Grouplove’s past two albums to some degree, you will probably — like me — be listening to this new record obsessively over the next few months. Whether you’re a long-time fan of the band, or you just discovered them recently, Grouplove’s “Big Mess” offered up a perfect introduction to just what kind of radical, unique and immensely enjoyable music this hands-on and wholesome band is continuing to bring to the indie rock genre.
Download “Welcome to Your Life,” “Enlighten Me” and “Traumatized” on iTunes
Record Label: Canvasback/Atlantic
Related Artists: Foster The People, Young the Giant, Modest Mouse