US - Washington - Full Moon 159 - 09/04/09
Keep In Mind Frankenstein
Sub Pop / Tuba!
I found Grand Archives' self-titled debut last year to be "a bright and shiny collection of songs, but maybe not bright enough". And, thought it could be a "grower". The music of Grand Archives appear shy and anonymous, but keeps growing on you. It did, it still does. Now it's time for the 2nd album by Mat Brooke & co.
Exactly 3 years after the Archives were started up (or, opened up their shelves and files), they put out their second platter. The new album is called Keep In Mind Frankenstein, and what do Grand Archives have in mind? Is this meant to be a reminder of Victor Frankenstein, who learns to create life, and creates a being who turns out to be - or, by, humans, is turned into - a monster. A tragic story, with a tragic end, and one of the classic gothic horror
novels. Well, Grand Archives don't make monsters. They simply make classic American, laidback, melancholy guitar-pop country-folk, with just the right blend of light and shade, a dash of sun and some drops of rain.
The beautiful and bittersweet "Topsy's Revenge" opens the album, a song inspired by 1903 newsreel footage of Thomas Edison electrocuting a rogue Coney Island elephant. Some kind of monster, or some monster behaviour? "Witchy Park/Tomorrow Will (Take Care of Itself)" is a grand and majestic split-song, unveiling all its beauty in the second part. Simplistic and smart, with all the breeze and air you need to reach the right pop heights perfect for lazy summer afternoons.
This time Brooke's former playmates from pre-Band of Horses band, Carissa's Wierd, Jenn Ghetto and Sera Cahoone for backing vocal duties. The short "Lazy Bones" (the only track not penned by Boone) is almost like a prelude to the next song, the toned down and fragile "Siren Echo Valley (Part 1)" (which btw is even shorter), another fine ballad (with an instrumental little brother coming later on, "Siren Echo Valley (Part 2)"). In fact the entire album is held in a slow, almost whispering style. Maybe they should've thrown in a few more up-tempo songs? Or maybe not, since the tone, warmth and contrast of the record is quite delicate. With its steel-guitar "Dig That Crazy Grave" is way into country terrain. This (and parts of other songs as well) makes me think of the late St.Thomas. Both the melody and the vocals, even though Thomas had a bit more ragged style (and voice). The closing "Willoughby" continues and sums up the mood of the album. 10 songs (done in some 35 minutes!) watching the sun set on the horizon. Beer in hand.
Keep In Mind Frankenstein isn't as bright as their debut (if you could refer to Grand Archives as bright or light). Still enlightening music, though. Best songs? "Witchy Park/Tomorrow Will (Take Care of Itself)", "Lazy Bones", and "Topsy's Revenge". Not to forget the ace of spades, "Oslo Novelist"! Writer's block, guided by magic pedal steel. With records like this (along with label mates Fruit Bats), it's much easier to face the autumn rainstorms, and, eventually, winter's frost and snow. Sweeping beauty.
Copyright © 2009 Håvard Oppøyen