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By: Matthew Swanson

There’s nothing on Grand Archives’ self titled debut that’s going to pump you up.  None of the tracks are going to make your Bill’s Workout Mix Volume #4, to get you (Bill) through that all important third set of lat pull downs, or whatever sort of lifting or pulling people do these days.  You’re also not likely to pump your fist in the air to any of these songs, like you might have during a Billy Idol album recorded during his formative years.  While all of the above statements are true, that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a good record, because it is, in its own subtle way.

The record kicks off with what is its strongest track, the gorgeous Torn Blue Couch, with its lovely melodies and harmonies, with not so lovely imagery, which is a combination Matt Brook, who wrote most every song, uses effectively throughout this record.  Consider the lyric: “Hey, darlin’ don’t you look fine, your two front teeth shaved like ice and sharp as razors.”  That doesn’t sound at all like an appealing description of a young lady, but it’s sung in a heart felt tone, which softens the blow of such an abrasive lyric.

Miniature Birds is also a standout track, with its whimsical nature and the whistling and Matt Brooke’s harmonica playing off one another, followed by two different horns, which work against one another equally well.  Swan Matches is not one of the stronger tracks, but it does give us our first significant taste of the until then seemingly neglected electric guitar, with a soaring, impressive solo that even includes feedback, which can pleasantly catch someone off guard after being lulled into a blissful trance by the songs up until and including this one.  This song also has a strong presence of quality, female back-up vocals by perhaps one of the best names in back-up vocal history: Jenn Ghetto.

There is also a stretch of three songs in the middle of the track listing which give the record a solid stretch of consistency.  First we have the Alan Parsons-like, melancholy George Kaminski.  Then, the only non-Brooke composition, Ron Lewis’ A Setting Sun, a sweet sounding tune, punctuated by a pedal steel guitar, and containing one of the record’s catchiest choruses: “Could you be quick or be, could you be quick or be tired.  The tock the tick of it, atop the funeral pyre.”  This track is followed up by Breezy No Breezy, a moody instrumental with whirling wind noises and sleigh bells, which could easily be used as the score in a film noir.

The album continues its unobtrusive style, until The Crime Window kicks in, which sounds like a raucous, Irish drinking song.  Aside from that, with its sweet-sounding melodies, two part harmonies, and fine playing, this is the perfect accompaniment to a rainy, Sunday afternoon, when all you want to do is sit around, read, and maybe even sink into some light, cathartic brooding.



All opinions expressed by Matthew Swanson are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.

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