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CD of The Week

Week of 3/15/21

    Grouplove - This Is This (Atlantic)

    Surprise! Almost exactly one year after the release of Healer, Grouplove return with a brand-new full-length album. While not as immediately catchy as its predecessor, This is This really lives up to the name of what it describes, which is an album of plainly stated music that spans influences but not necessarily innovation.

    The record begins with the somewhat reserved “Primetime” and right into the next tune “This is the End”. Featuring some nice back and forth vocals between Christian Zucconi and Hannah Hooper, it explores what were likely the thoughts many quarantined couples felt in the early onset of the pandemic. “We’ll be together/This is the end,” the couple sings in between the memorable chorus.

    Next up is the album’s lead single “Deadline.” Perhaps this was chosen as the single to show proper juxtaposition to the singles from Healer. It certainly manages the expectations of anyone coming in expecting a sequel to that album. Starting off quietly and keeping it that way, pandemic inner monologues are once again the source of inspiration. It’s hard not to hear the genuine emotion in lyrics like “I’m turning off the TV/Wish I had a bedtime/God I miss my family/Living on a deadline”.

    “Scratch,” ironically is next, both because of its health and welfare message (“Don't scratch my face”) and its obvious radio-friendliness. A nice acoustic detour is found next in “Oxygen Swimming,” which brings the stronger half of the album to a finish.

    The next four tracks end up being somewhat of a mixed bag. “Just What You Want” brings back distorted guitars and higher tempos (with a nice assist from Dani Miller of Surfbort), but the next track “Seagulls” misses the mark. “Shake That Ass” is not the banger of a song the title might suggest and seems to have difficulty deciding what kind of tune it should be. “Shout” ends the record and in its 6-minute length seemingly covers every sound and genre featured in the preceding tracks. The blended approach is an admirable one that I’m sure will lend itself nicely to the closing of a live set.

    Half part memorable and half part questionable, Grouplove’s surprise fifth album release is one set in directions unknown. One positive the pandemic has had on bands is the unintended consequence of writing and releasing material devoid of barriers and expectations. And that perfectly sums up This is This, an album that subverts both notions and values the personal over the commercial.  The sum may equal more than the parts, but that doesn’t make the equation any less essential.

    Review by Keith Obaza

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