So Many Genres Heard In So Few Songs Results in Greatness: Grouplove – Never Trust A Happy Song
By Charissa Lock
On a historic island in the Mediterranean Sea nestled an art residency where Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi met with Sean Gad, Ryan Rabin, and Andrew Wessen. This meeting, friendship and music collaboration were the roots to which grew into their creation of a wondrous band known as Grouplove, an EP in 2010, and in September 2011 came a full-length album (Never Trust A Happy Song).
Not that I wanted there to be something I did not like about this album, but with 12 tracks, there should be something I wished was louder, softer, had a faster or slower tempo, consisted of different vocals, etc. etc. So far (and by so far, I mean after so many listens I lost count), I have found nothing wrong with this album. I did have a slight moment of discouragement when I saw their “Tongue Tied” music video, which did not fit what I had envisioned for the song, nor displayed Hannah Hooper as the singer I was expecting. I was picturing a nerdy girl with thick-rimmed glasses and braids, and what I got instead was a diva (my perception after the music video and live performance of “Naked Kids”). However, I am slowly coming to terms with this (as in picturing her as the music nerd I had previously visualized). Of course, getting back to the album, I am all thumbs up. Even the portions of the album where I would typically be annoyed and have no connection to and enjoyment with, I found myself not being able to be annoyed by it and was enjoying genre-types that I don’t normally have a connection with. How is this possible?
It could be due to the fact that they are not trying to fit any one type of genre or theme, they are going out there and just making music to the best of their ability. With so many different elements involved, and being conscious, experimental and particularly skilled musicians they are able to create intricate and fun songs. Every track on this album is absolutely different than the one before, genre-wise, instrument-wise, vocal-wise, lyric-wise, etc. (that’s an awful lot of hyphens). And although every song is so different, they are all a part of this giant, beautiful moment of musical genius known as Never Trust A Happy Song. What ties all of these loose ends of pure jubilation is the fact that they are all really well written, composed, and are delivered with a bountiful amount of energy. Yet with all these differences it’s not like they go as far as combining rap and twangy folk on one album – oh wait, they do.
My first listen was not on Madden NFL 12 or FIFA 12, or the radio (remember folks, I don’t listen to the radio). I was clued in to Grouplove for this review, and knowing absolutely nothing about them – my first thought was “WOAH, there is SO MUCH going on here.” On my second listen I thought “THIS IS AMAZING!,” and on my third listen I bought tickets to their March show in Boston and became really annoying about my new obsession on Facebook. This is not my usual response to new music. My listens since then have been continued amazement with increased singing. I have heard Grouplove’s “Tongue Tied” on Apple’s iPod Touch commercial and every time there are a few moments of “yay!,” but then realize it never does the song justice. These songs need to be heard in their entirety to get the full affect.
It’s going to be hard to pick my favorites, since I really enjoy them all, and I don’t think going through each one will do any justice, nor will leave your curious to want to buy Never Trust A Happy Song. So, I think I will just talk about them independently as part of the whole (this will make sense in a moment). The first few tracks on this album (“Itchin’ On A Photograph,” “Tongue Tied,” and “Lovely Cup,”) are just as amazing as the final tracks (“Love Will Save Your Soul,” “Cruel and Beautiful World,” and “Close Your Eyes and Count To Ten”). And the tracks in between – yeah, those are awesome too. You can sing along to every one, even when they are slower (“Slow,” “Cruel and Beautiful World”) and there is something smart, unique, and energetic about all of them. Each song has different type of vocals, even when it is the same vocalist (between Hooper, Wessen, and Zucconi). Each seems to change their vocals slightly based on the genre and feel of the song. If it’s a faster, fun song about young love (“Tongue Tied”) then Hooper’s going to throw in some white girl rap (which I typically abhor, but for some really weird reason I actually like it coming from this bunch). Yet, if it’s a slower, Mates of State-type duet (“Betty’s Bomb Shell”), then Hooper is going to go all Kori Gardner on it. I think something about Grouplove that caters to my musical needs is the energy involved. The vocals go loud and sometimes raspy (think The Avett Brothers) when they’re in the final chorus or bridge, but only go there when they need to. Going to that emotional place is something I thoroughly enjoy and probably makes me a bit biased.
Trying to compare the band to someone is really tough; it’s easier to compare songs off of Never Trust A Happy Song to bands. Try to imagine Mates of State, Elvis Costello, The Avett Brothers, and Matt and Kim all going into a recording studio together – on speed (the inspirational musical kind). Even with this in mind – they completely are doing their own thing here and you can tell that they are most certainly not trying to be like anyone else. With every song being such a diverse blend of musical influences, its quite impressive that the entire album (encompassing genres and themes that you would not necessarily consider being together) can be created and performed with such power and perfection.