Album review: Grouplove’s “Big Mess”

Grouplove’s much awaited third studio album dropped  Friday. The indie pop group has been on a one year  hiatus and hasn’t released an album since September 2013. The album, Big Mess, is said to be a tribute to lead singers Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi’s baby girl.

The album kicks off with the single “Welcome to Your Life,” a song that embodies the classic Grouplove vibe. The lyrics, “We’re back in business” let fans know that Grouplove is back and better than ever. Zucconi and Hooper’s voices blend flawlessly in a harmonic masterpiece that join the ever-present folk guitar and synth, creating that Grouplove sound.

From the first few songs, it seems this is going to be another familiar indie pop album with little risk. However, by the fourth track, “Enlighten Me,” the listener is clued in to the fact that this band has grown artistically. They begin stripping down their sound and toying around with simplicity. “Enlighten Me” gives the feeling that the track is being made as the audience listens to it, with a new layer being added every couple of bars to give it a wonderful build up. The track “Spinning” mixes poppy synthes with a folk vibe and features a back-and-forth between Zucconi and Hooper, creating a relaxing sensation that procures visions of beach days and soaking up the sun.

The band has  cited Nirvana as a main source of inspiration, which is very apparent on this album. Heavy 90s guitar reminiscent of Kurt Cobain’s distinct sound drives the song “Traumatized,” which, surprisingly, focuses on parenthood and the epiphanies associated with that chapter in life. Other 90s influences seem to have seeped in as well, as tracks “Good Morning” and “Don’t Stop Making It Happen” have a late 90s early-2000’s pop sound similar to Deee-lite’s “Groove Is In the Heart.” “Cannonball” begins with a drumbeat similar to that of Beyonce and Jack White’s “Don’t Hurt Yourself.” It continues on with an alternative-rock sound which contrasts the band’s normal indie pop vibe.

These new takes on music demonstrate the growth this group has experienced as a band. A majority of bands that are successful in the long-term change their sound around their third studio album. The band has matured artistically and has morphed into another being. This had allowed the band to break from their pigeonholed “sound” that made them well-known. As with any art-form, music is a reflection of a culture or group of people and it takes the form of issues that are prevalent in the musician’s life.

Grouplove is no exception to this trend. Zucconi and Hooper’s lives have changed drastically. Bassist Sean Gadd left the band three years ago, and Daniel Gleason has taken his place. The new perspective provided by Gleason no doubt had an impact on the final product that is Big Mess. These changes shape the way their art is created. And while fans still get their feel-good dance track with “Do You Love Someone,” Grouplove has undoubtedly grown into a more mature group better equipped to handle the ever-changing landscape of issues in today’s world.