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Album Review: The Griswolds 'Be Impressive'

Arriving on the Australian scene in 2012 as an attempt to escape tiresome past projects and create some good times, Sydney’s The Griswolds took no time at all to nestle themselves into the indie pop landscape. With a slew of summery, feel-good tunes including ‘Heart Of A Lion’ and ‘The Courtship of Summer Preasley’, the quartet quickly became a fixture on many-a-listener’s festival and road-trip playlists. A blend of sing-along melodies, shimmering synths, angular guitar lines, and driving percussion, it’s almost a shame that the release of their debut LP ‘Be Impressive’ is an entire season ahead of summer’s doorstep. 

‘Be Impressive’ doesn’t stray far from the tropical, percussive, pop-heavy sound of The Griswold’s previous releases, walking the fine line between being something new and fresh, and something heard and formulaic. Tracks such as the guitar-led single ‘Beware the Dog’ and tom-drum heavy ‘America’ stay (almost too) close to what you’d expect from the writers of debut single ‘Missisippi’, with African vibes aplenty. However, the increased electronic element which is evident across the album was a wise decision on behalf of the band; songs such as opener ’16 Years’ and the reverb-drenched ‘Right on Track’ depart from previous formulas and showcase new avenues for the band’s sound. Add in the children’s chants in ‘Be Impressive’, the minimalist opening of ‘Live This Nightmare’, and the glitchy percussion in ‘Aurora Borealis’, and listeners are presented with enough new ideas to prevent the music from being a carbon copy of what has come before.

Despite the overall upbeat vibe of the album, ‘Be Impressive’ is in no way a collection of solely happy-go-lucky tunes. With the experiences that go alongside eighteen months of touring providing the inspiration for the album’s lyrics, the release has it's fair share of darker moments, some of which hold the potential to be easily missed. Catchy melodies often mask statements such as, “You hate so much that you’re better off alone” (‘Beware The Dog’) and, “Down and out / I hit the poison / I’m not proud about some of my choices now” (‘Down and Out’), allowing the album’s themes to easily slip under the radar. By masking the more sombre moments of their release, The Griswolds have actually created a major drawcard; listeners who are after a soundtrack to their parties will largely remain unbothered by the themes, whilst those who prefer to dig into the music a little more are left with room to explore. ‘Thread the Needle’, the album’s most obviously sensitive moment, could almost be classed as the weakest – the string quartet, thundering percussion, and blatant Nirvana reference combination feels a little contrived – proving that The Griswolds are musically at their best in the brighter moments.

It is very difficult to present something new in the indie pop world, and The Griswolds are by no means breaking the mould. But for a band that rose to recognition repeating a very specific sound, it’s refreshing to hear them break out of their shell to present a cohesive collection of songs that expand upon the token ‘Griswolds’ sound. Summery, catchy, and thoroughly danceable, expect to hear ‘Be Impressive’ blasting out of countless stereos nationwide as the weather warms up.

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