This article previously appeared on Crossfader
Genre: Art Pop
Favorite Tracks: “Hot Pink,” “It’s Not Just Me,” “Falling Into Me,” “Cool & Collected,” “Donnie Darko”
Youth and wisdom are not mutually exclusive characteristics—this is becoming more and more apparent. From Lorde’s MELODRAMA to the film LADY BIRD, coming-of-age stories feel more relevant than ever as increasingly blatant societal corruption forces a wave of distrust over the public consciousness. Our elders seem to be unable to tap into the bare minutiae of human emotion and experience, failing to see past adulthood’s monotonous rigmarole: get a job, buy a house, have a family, pay the bills, die. But the feelings and lessons that get us there are much more special than the paltry credit they’re given, which is why the voices of Let’s Eat Grandma seem especially urgent. The British duo’s musical debut, I, GEMINI, caught glimpses of the dark, inner landscape of adolescent ennui and fantasy, but their sophomore release I’M ALL EARS reveals in them a true sophistication as young and wildly progressive artists feeling it all for the first time.
Like the vibrant and ever-changing attitudes of today’s youth, I’M ALL EARS leaves little experimentation behind. This penchant for the avant garde since the band’s debut is fiercely complemented by production courtesy of David Wrench (Bat For Lashes, Everything Everything) and SOPHIE, whose signature sound is undoubtedly becoming a leading force that ought to make Jack Antonoff shake in his boots. The lurid whimsy of Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa Walton, both multi-instrumentalists, recalls that of CocoRosie, freshly spun through a meat grinder of electronica. In pop that spurs as much as it glitters, their output suggests the nightmarish emotions and changes of growing up, without falling victim to too many obvious tropes.
I’M ALL EARS is remarkably impressive as an album whose soundscape tightly befits its dreamscape. The album vacillates through a shockingly extensive repertoire of pop subgenres with equal parts elegance and dynamism, while never failing to maintain a common sonic backbone. “Hot Pink” coolly grooves through its verses and then ruptures into a biting, industrial chorus, and ends with a minute-and-a-half bubblegum outro á la Hannah Diamond. “It’s Not Just Me,” a spacious and innocent synthpop track, is immediately followed by the spinning glitch of “Falling Into Me.” Afterwards, “Snakes & Ladders” drones in heartache-y, bedroom pop synth and guitar—and all this ground covered, it’s only the first half of the album! The ambition of I’M ALL EARS alone is enough to mark Let’s Eat Grandma as major up-and-coming players amongst even their more established art pop colleagues.
In spite of its youthfulness, you can only really tell Hollingworth and Walton are teenagers because their ages are online. For an album closely connected to adolescent experience, I’M ALL EARS is filled with maturity too often underestimated in young women like them. Each track is flush with emotional intelligence and a profound lyrical imagery to match. Typical teenage angst is transformed into portraits of bagels on a kitchen table and swollen bug bites on a spine, framed by earnest wisdom about life and relationships. The nine-minute tack “Cool & Collected” putters along with gooey, psych-rock guitars in a cavernous vacuum of lilting vocals, expressing the desire to just relax around someone who makes you feel wild with attraction (spoiler: they can’t keep their cool the whole nine minutes!). Another marathon track, “Donnie Darko,” culminates with the realization that time passes even in the face of terror, singingm “‘Cause the beatings just get harder and we’ll never grow them out / ‘Cause the hand that does the dealings is the one that feeds your mouth.” A spacey hum throughout eventually delivers a modest dance beat and transforms into a growling synth organ. It’s a thrill to hear this ride of growing up reinterpreted again in ways that pivot at the drop of a hat, without losing any of the soul.
Between the music and the lyrics, Let’s Eat Grandma have proven with this record the kind of artistry many musicians take years to hone. I’M ALL EARS is an album that stimulates as much as it sobers, presenting itself with honesty that isn’t bogged down by the baggage of adulthood. Like all of us, Let’s Eat Grandma have a lifetime to experience that baggage; I’M ALL EARS is just the rite of passage.