By Aidan Brueckner
Four of Arrows is the latest effort and sophomore LP of Great Grandpa, a self-proclaimed “grunge pop” band from the hallowed ground of Seattle. After the release of their full length debut, Plastic Cough, the band took some time apart, eventually reconvening with a set of songs that embrace a more nuanced and mature sound, in both the message of the lyrics and the instrumentation. Unlike their previous record, Great Grandpa seems to be more comfortable in the diversity of sounds between, and even within, individual tracks.
This is reflected perfectly in the opening track “Dark Green Water.” A slow lead-in of gentle guitar gives way to multi-tracked vocals and a wall of drums and distortion, the latter of which disappears as suddenly as it arrives, serving to highlight emotional focal points. Lead vocalist Carrie Goodwin carries this piece as well as the whole album, singing with what seems like a perfect mix of anger and melancholy, her voice peaking as if on the verge of sobbing.
The second track, “Digger,” reflects many of the main musical themes from the first track. Softer vocals and acoustic fingerpicking masquerades as a folk song, before cascading into massive drums and howling guitars, with Goodwin launching her lyrics into the cacophony with vigor.
The song ends with the feedback of the guitars fading out, creating an interesting juxtaposition with the following track, “English Garden,” a laid back, imagery-filled track that includes both banjo and violin and wouldn’t feel out of place on a Big Thief album. This contrast between the aggression of the first two tracks continues into the next, “Mono no Aware,” a retrospective on memory.
The next track, “Bloom,” picks up the pace again, but not quite to the degree of the first two. Here, Great Grandpa ruminates on the pressures of growing up, especially with outside pressure to do great things. Appropriately, it takes the form of a run-of-the-mill indie rock song with elements of pop punk sprinkled in, save for a lengthy ambient outro. This is followed by a piano interlude, right in the middle of the album. I only wish that it served as a true interlude, splitting the album into two conspicuous movements.
These prior two tracks, while lackluster, are thankfully followed up by one of the stronger tracks on the album, “Rosalie.” An honest and impactful track follows the titular “Rosalie” through looping bouts of depression and isolation. Here is where Great Grandpa feels the most comfortable in their own sound, embracing elements of folk and indie, blending them with ease and skill.
This theme is maintained in the next several tracks, with “Treat Jar” and “Human Condition” reflecting on the hardships and pain of growing up, but showing less refinement than the prior songs on the album. These songs are succeeded by the mellow, acoustic track “Split Up The Kids,” an emotional ballad about death. The closing song on the album, “Mostly Here,” sends the listener out on a raft of noise, interspersed with slow drums and plenty of whammy bar.
Overall, Four of Arrows represents new territory for Great Grandpa, influenced by heartbreak, loss, and growing up. The piece exhibits significant musical prowess, finding ways to intersperse folk inspired tracks with harder, slow, shoegaze-style sounds with ease. The maturity of the subject matter serves this style of music well, with Carrie Goodwin carrying the album on her unique vocal style. While the album begins to peter out towards the end, this is offset by the strength of the first half of this piece. A solid production, serious themes, and well-thought out musical elements, make this piece one of the years most interesting releases, and a very enjoyable listen.
Overall Score: 6.5/10
Best Track: Rosalie
Best Lyrics: “The path in her brain gets rewarded again/ Where it hardens and strengthens in a looping refrain/ And masked spectres of the past reveal themselves against her will/ To slide in this moment, alive again pro tem” — “Rosalie”