Review: Grouplove's 'This Is This' is a sonic grab-bag

The alt-rock band is back with a new release and a different sound

 A year after the release of its fourth studio album "Healer", alt-rock band Grouplove is back again with the surprise release of "This is This" on March 12.

The new record brings different elements to the table with a grittier sound in contrast to the group's indie pop roots. The track list presents highs and lows, making the release a hit for some, but leave others unsatisfied.

Sonic experimentation is always a fickle game for artists, particularly when branching out later in their careers. While the band captures a more '90s rock sound with strong guitar riffs and a hypnotic bassline in some of the new songs, "This is This" seems less like a unique exploration and more so an ode to previous rock anthems.

"Primetime," the record's intro song, provides the first glimpse at this phenomenon. With crunchy distortion and a bold repeating guitar sound, Grouplove makes it clear pop is, for the most part, in the past.

"It's primetime, baby," singer Hannah Hooper sings over chaotic guitar solos and a foot-stomping drum beat.

While this unconventional sound is exciting for some, "Primetime" seems largely repetitive with monotonous riffs and simplistic lyrics.

Following the clear rock sounds of "Primetime" and "This Is The End", the album's third track "Deadline" evokes the all too familiar electronic pop sounds which propelled Grouplove to stardom.

The synth-driven introduction to "Deadline," although catchy and reminiscent of the band's older eras, gives the listener a sense of whiplash, contributing to the diminution of fluidity throughout the album.

"I'm thinking 'bout my basement / And how I got all burned out," Hooper sings, lamenting the loss of childhood's simplicity while accepting the reality of adulthood — something many can sympathize with.

While "Deadline" contrasts upbeat music with lyrics expressing struggle, "Oxygen Swimming," the fifth record, presents yet another separation from the rest of the album by taking a folk-sounding route, allowing for a somber moment on the track list.

The song's lyrics take the form of a poetic ballad, and the implementation of wind and string acoustics toward the end solidify this dreamy folk tone.

"Lights go out, but we're still living / We're just oxygen-swimming," the group sings, taking a moment to exist without further complications as they describe life in its simplest form: as swimming through the air we breathe.

It creates individual narratives, placing importance in a song that strays from the band's usual sound.

The album concludes with a bang — "Shout" hides no emotions, providing a journey through the complexity of dealing with feelings.

The song, which spans nearly six minutes, gives a combination of raw lyrics and fluctuating instrumentals making the record act as a story told through sound.

"You coil 'round my neck so I can hardly breathe / And press against my chest so I can never leave," Hooper sings, a heart-aching sentiment exploring darker themes of dealing with abuse and struggling to move on.

The bridge, best described as the light at the end of the tunnel for the song, opens up the conversation beyond the personal experiences of the singer. In reminding listeners "You are not alone," the song, and the album, ends on a larger note of community and support during difficult times.

As it experiments with pop, rock, electronic and folk, "This Is This" truly cannot be categorized. Exploration of new sounds allows Grouplove's music to progress with the ever-changing music industry, but too many sonic alterations may appear to fans as losing sight of the group's original sound.

Overall, "This Is This" provides exciting sounds appealing to a wide variety of audiences. The turn to a rock sound is not completely out of the norm for Grouplove, but it is increasingly repetitive throughout the album, with the exception of sudden returns to the band's indie pop origins.

While the album isn't a loss, its choppy transitions and lack of cohesion leave something to be desired in comparison to Grouplove's past projects.



Reach the reporter at jecote@asu.edu and follow @jillianecote on Twitter.

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