After L.A. band Grouplove released one of my favorite albums so far this decade, Never Trust a Happy Song, I had really high expectations for their followup. Grouplove’s formation was a strange one. Vocalist Christian Zucconi met Hannah Hooper in Manhattan, Hannah invited Christian to an artists’ retreat in Greece, and the members met there and formed a friendship. A year later, Grouplove became a real band. They are a band with five very distinct personalities, but all with an open positive attitude towards being creative. That attitude still runs rampant throughout Spreading Rumours. What you feel here is five people who *want* to be in a band and enjoy every minute of it. I was lucky enough to see them in concert here in Columbus on Election Day in 2012, and the love shared between the band and the crowd was electric. While some may think the name is simply a double entendre, the name really means they have a lot of grouplove, as in love for their group. It’s really that simple and so is the joy in these songs.
The album starts off a bit different than the last, with a rolling piano bit that sounds almost like a Coldplay album opener – very misleading! It swells up in layers and the drums kick in and two minutes later “I’m With You” launches off with audio confetti and party balloons. The song has a cinematic synth backdrop behind an excited song of love and loyalty. Then we switch to the driving guitar line of “Borderlines and Aliens” a quirky, energetic song that may or may not be about Area 51 and has a great singalong refrain of “ari-ari-arigato!”. This is one of the heavier songs so far in their repertoire. “Schoolboy” then gets a bit nostalgic about Christian’s childhood crush. This one sounds like a sister of “Tongue Tied” from the previous album. Great melody back and forth between Christian and Hannah here.
Next is a song that’s become one of my favorites so far by the band, “Ways To Go”. This one goes for an electronic beat instead of live drums, but no less spirited while being a song of encouragement and daydreaming. I have to mention how much I love the video for this song (included below), featuring a world leader waking up as a child, feeling that unclouded joy kids feel, and one by one changing everyone around him. It brings such a huge smile to my face. Following this we get the sunny day anthem “Shark Attack”, which seems to be about the happiness found in accidental connections with strangers. “Sit Still” then comes in with an acoustic based shuffle of a beat. This is a song about nervous energy and “how crazy goes”. It’s a song for throwing caution to the wind and moving forward without looking back. The marching band style drum breakdown at the end is quite a bit of fun as well.
One of the most powerful tracks comes midway with “Hippy Hill”, with reflective lyrics like “I’d rather be the dying than the rising sun” and “I’d rather be a hippy than a hipster”. This one is slower and hypnotic, and then midway takes a nightmarish turn into dark electronica before returning back to the dreamlike sound of before. Then we get upbeat with “What I Know” where the band shines a bit of their Pixies influence blended with their own sound and finds them in full on rock mode. “Didn’t Have To Go” spotlights Hannah’s carefree singing style and even though the lyrics are on the sad breakup song side, the chorus is uplifting because of the band’s refuse-to-be-gloomy vibe.
“Bitin’ The Bullet” is by far one of the most fun tracks here, with a musical backing that sounds like a mix of a music box and a vaudeville/carnival ride piano pastiche. The bounce of the song is irresistible, and the band’s got the jubilant energy to follow through without the song coming off cheesy. It’s also the song I find myself bouncing around in my chair to. Next is “News To Me”, which is more of a reflective narrative type song that has some great musical interplay between the band members. “Raspberry”… well this is certain the best Pixies song that the Pixies never wrote. Everything I love about that band is encapsulated here and Grouplove gets it right… the paranoid lead vocals, the soft beautiful female co-lead, the soft/loud/ROCK! dynamic. One of the standouts for sure. Then the last song is the party closer, literally, “Save The Party”, a somber acoustic singalong akin to the former album’s “Close Your Eyes and Count To Ten”. The perfect way to come down.
The MP3 Deluxe Version has 3 additional tracks. These are essentially b-side material, but interesting nonetheless. “Girl” is a quiet keyboard-led song by Hannah that reminds me just a bit of “Nothing Compares 2 U”. Beautiful echoey vocals here. “Flowers” is an upbeat rocker led by either bassist Sean Gadd or guitarist Andrew Wessen’s vocals (I know they both sing on the previous album – my guess is this is Gadd). This one is a nice addition and has a vibe like “Chloe” from NTaHS. Lastly is the somewhat strange track “Beans on Pizza”, with a sole bongo drum starting it out. It sounds like a song conceived at a tribal festival or Burning man or something along those lines. But fearlessly the band decided to add it as a bonus track. Not bad, just strange.
I’m more or less ignoring the bonus tracks as I have the CD. I had to have the physical package as the artwork is all drawn by Hannah Cooper, who also serves as the band’s main artist for all covers, posters, etc. I can’t help but love this album completely. It’s an hour full of sunshine when you’re having a crappy day. Their “ain’t nothing gonna break my stride” attitude can be infectious, and the music has a power to match. Definitely one of my favorite albums of 2013 and surely into 2014 as well.
Check out some great videos and performances from the album:
“Ways To Go”:
“Borderlines and Aliens”:
“Bitin’ The Bullet” (Audio Only):
“Raspberry” (Acoustic – Embarcadero Marina Park in San Diego):
Live at KROQ soundspace – August 2013: