After a long wait and slow build of anticipation, Grouplove have finally released Never Trust a Happy Song, their debut LP. Hipsters the world over have been waxing nostalgic on the ironic title, but looking past that I’m pleased to report that the band has really delivered upon everything their self-titled EP promised. The harmonies, sunshine, and general youthful exuberance completely carried over onto Never…, and the result is a surprisingly varied album that goes great lengths in expanding the band’s sound and style. There are enough potential singles to shake a stick at, and the band was smart enough to balance them out with some interesting slow- to mid-tempo tunes.
I’m also really happy with the track listing of the album, which in this modern world of shuffling singles isn’t something most people think about. There’s a great flow to NTaHS that opens perfectly with “Itchin on a Photograph” and has the listener hooked until “Slow,” which almost seems like something the band planned before things pick back up in the second half. “Colours” and “Naked Kids” are unchanged and just as great as they were a few months ago, but new songs “Tongue Tied” and “Spun” are without a doubt just as catchy.
A few of the tracks, such as the aforementioned “Tongue Tied,” also make smart use of the new indie trend of putting that booming bass drum in to create a dance sound. You know, the one often used by MGMT, Passion Pit, The Drums, Two Door Cinema Club, Foster the People, and especially Sleigh Bells. I’m sure we’ll get an even more bangin’ club mix of some Grouplove songs in the near future, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the band commissions them themselves. Desperate music times call for desperate music measures these days!
Of course, the album isn’t totally perfect, but my main qualm comes from the infinite memorability of the first seven tracks versus the last five. There are so many hooks to wrap my head around that the end of the album has been largely forgotten after listening to it ten times on repeat. It’s not that the songs aren’t good, it’s just that there’s too much in one shot that the cream really stands out. I’m sure the other ones will dig their way in over time, but I know what songs I want to hear first whenever I go back to the LP, and that’s not a bad thing.
As a personal note, I got into Grouplove around the same time I first heard Givers, so now the two bands kind of ‘go together’ in my head. It makes sense; the groups are ridiculously similar in style, membership, and even Caps-Lock sensibilities. In a race for sunny pop sensibilities, Givers really hit the nail on the head, but Grouplove has a few things they don’t. Their album is more diverse than Givers’, and therefore ends up much more memorable. Nothing against the latter, but Grouplove is fantastic at adding melancholy sentiment and melody to the even happiest of music, and it pays off in the long run. Plus, I hear the live show is crazy good. (Givers’ show was great too, even if it did sound like one long song…)
At this point I really do have the highest of expectations for this band. Their vibe, style, story, music, and timing are all just right enough for them to explode at the drop of the hat, and it’ll probably happen within a few months. Then comes the dirty hipster backlash, of course (something Grouplove can avoid by following Foster the People’s footsteps and just becoming mainstream). This in turn will make us bloggers despise them, but being indie is a cruel existence any band must come to terms with sooner or later. For now, this is my new favorite record!