Standing on top of a park bench in close to unbearable humidity, Grouplove belts out their latest single. With nothing but acoustic guitars and bare voices, the crowd stays quiet. Whisper singing can be heard from every direction.
Standing in the middle of Washington Square Park, the band is surrounded by smiling faces. It’s common to find happy people at a concert, but in this case, something is different. There’s something deeper about the emotion. It’s as obvious as the condensation forming on skin the skin of every overheated, yet blissful fan, and it’s as light as air.
Delaney Peterson, long time Grouplove fan, has attended five Grouplove shows and has plans to see the band again in Brooklyn this very night. What keeps her coming back is the high-energy joy injected firmly into every note.
In a pale dress and black combat boots, she beats the heat with pure cheerfulness and radiates excitement as the band signals the crowd to come closer.
“They make me happy, and I think I speak for many when I say that you never leave a Grouplove show feeling anything short of pure happiness,” says Peterson as she dances along to the acoustic set, now front row, where she prefers to be.
The happiness is tangible. It’s written on Peterson’s face and the faces of passersby. That’s what Grouplove is best at; eliciting a true positivity that stays with fans long after the curtain closes.
“We’re back in business.” The opening lyrics on Grouplove’s latest album, Big Mess (released 9/9/2016 via Canvasback Music/Atlantic Records) are fitting. Since their 2013 release Spreading Rumors, we’ve heard nothing but silence from the band. Meanwhile, they’ve been changing.
Big Mess can be assumed a fitting title. Any fan of the indie-pop band would describe Grouplove as just that: A group of colorful personalities and wacky self-expression. They’ve presented a disorganized collage of songs from “Beans On Pizza” to “Borderlines and Aliens,” whimsical titles and equally bizarre tunes.
It’s songs like these that display the band’s rare, exuberant energy. Their sound is upbeat, a word which feels like a pathetic understatement for the amount of action thrown into each track. At times, it gives the impression of the work of a child who ate too many pixies sticks, a collection of the writer’s state of bliss strung together with epic drum beats and hectic enthusiasm. Each song is bright and colorful, emitting a light of joy in each performance.
Grouplove’s evolution comes as a welcomed surprise; a toned down version of the band’s loved traits. Big Mess is anything but what the title states. It very well may be the most organized collection in the band’s repertoire.
The album is a clear, mature step in a more symmetrical direction. Happy rhythms are embraced throughout, but this time, are complete with uplifting ideals and outlined positivity, instead of the band’s usual dead-end messages laced over peppy tunes.
This transformation may be due in part to band members Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi welcoming a daughter, Willa, last August. “Welcome To Your Life,” the album’s premiere single, focuses on the couple’s well wishes for their child. It’s a beautiful interlude, with lyrics like “Welcome to your world, my girl. Let it be your fantasy,” and “All the roads in this world were paved by the young.”
You’re such a big mess and I love you.
Watch: “Welcome to Your Life” – Grouplove
Much of the album also revolves around the love between Hooper and Zucconi, seemingly stronger than ever. The first lines in “Traumatized,” an almost violently energetic rendition of routine parenthood, read like an ode to Hooper, displaying a pure, undying love and importance of family.
It’s these songs, with clear directions, which solidify a “new” Grouplove. It’s more adult, and respectable in content. Not only have the messages taken a dramatic turn, but the band’s musical evolution is equally as important on the album.
Most of the songs are recognizable as the band’s own, as they foster a distinctive sound. But Big Mess experiments with vocal challenges and new styles. “Cannonball,” the album’s seventh song, doesn’t sound anything like a Grouplove song. Lyrics in the song are spoken with crystal clear pronunciation in uniform timing, unlike most of the group’s songs, more times than not, difficult to comprehend.
“Good Morning” is one of the most true-to-self songs on the album. It could have been pulled off any past album, but finds a home in the most current collection. If one song from Big Mess is bound to gain radio airtime, it’s “Good Morning.” The catchy chorus and equally dance-worthy verses scream happiness and have the power to instantly invoke positivity in listeners.
The album progresses with upbeat melodies and songs with slower, existential messages. All together, it’s a perfect balance. For the first time, Grouplove has produced an album that won’t just make listeners smile, but will solicit real emotion. It’s not background dance music, but music that will become the soundtrack to the day-to-day trials and tribulations of many.
What makes this album truly special is displayed in the smiles on the faces in Washington Square Park. It’s seen in the band’s warm interactions with fans at an album pre-release party in Soho, asking each, genuinely, how their day is going. It’s the well wishes threaded into every corner of each song and the way the band wholeheartedly means them.
Big Mess is full of hope. It has a goal, a purpose. It’s what sets the album apart from the band’s past. While not formally cohesive in style and tune, the album is belted together with grace in the ideas and morals portrayed. It’s an album, coming from a band known for music described as “fun” and “playful,” that breaks these norms and explores organic life. It’s these captured moments, in songs about real life, which will affect fans worldwide in the same way fans are overtaken by true feelings as the band strums away on a park bench.
Cover Photo: Grouplove © JMH
Big Mess – Grouplove
:: Grouplove’s The Big Mess World Tour ::
*with MUNA // +with Dilly Dally
9/21 – Amsterdam Paradiso – Netherlands
9/22 – Hamburg Reeperbahn Fest – Germany
9/23 – Cologne Luxor – Germany
9/24 – Paris Les Etoiles – France
9/26 – Manchester Academy 3 – United Kingdom
9/27 – London Electric Ballroom – United Kingdom
8/10 – Honolulu, HI – The Republik
10/5 – Las Vegas, NV – Brooklyn Bowl+
10/6 – Oakland, CA – Fox Theater+
10/7 – Los Angeles, CA – Hollywood Palladium+
10/10 – Vancouver, BC – Commodore Ballroom+
10/13 – Portland, OR – Roseland Theatre+
10/14 – Seattle, WA – The Crocodile Café
10/17 – Salt Lake City, UT – The Complex – Grand Room+
10/18 – Denver, CO – Ogden Theatre+
10/21 – Kansas City, MO – Uptown Theatre+
10/22 – Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue+
10/23 – Madison, WI – Orpheum Theater+
10/25 – Indianapolis, IN – Egyptian Room at Old National Centre+
10/27 – Columbus, OH – Express Live!
10/29 – Royal Oak, MI – Royal Oak Music Theatre+
10/30 – Toronto, ON – Danforth Music Hall
10/31 – Montréal, QC – Corona Theatre*
11/1 – Philadelphia, PA – The Fillmore+
11/3 – Boston, MA – House of Blues+
11/5 – New York, NY – Hammerstein Ballroom+
11/9 – Washington, DC – Echostage+
11/10 – Norfolk, VA – The Norva+
11/12 – Nashville, TN – Cannery Ballroom+
11/13 – New Orleans, LA – House of Blues+
11/15 – Dallas, TX – House of Blues+
11/16 – Houston, TX – House of Blues+
11/18 – Austin, TX – Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater*+