In the wake of their full-length debut, Plastic Cough, Seattle grunge pop group Great Grandpa lived, worked, and toured together before scattering across the United States.
Carrie and Patrick Goodwin, bassist and guitarist, respectively, relocated to Milwaukee, where they wrote the bulk of the songs for their second record. As each member brought their contributions to the table, they found the time apartand the sense of isolation it created birthed motifs through all their songs. Four Arrows is a more patient, spacious album, signaling a growth past their playful debut record.
With the opening track “Dark Green Water,” the turn away from traditional grunge pop becomesapparent with the first few measures. The bittersweet acoustic guitar foundation supports the lovelyduet vocals on the verse. The song sinks into a bridge of cacophony, with screeching violins escalatinguntil the sound cuts out. Guitar and gentle voice pick the song back where it left off, like a daycontinuing after a momentary breakdown interrupted it. Highlight track “Bloom” takes the album on a turn for the upbeat. It’s a bright refutation of agingequating to losing time and talent: “I get anxious on the weekends/when I feel I’m wasting time/Butthen I think about Tom Petty/and how he wrote his best songs when he was 39.” The guitar licks arebrighter, the key major, and the outlook optimistic. Voice modification over the middle eight includes awelcome moment of synthetic texture to the album. In contrast, “Rosalie” is a folksy, sorrowfulanecdote about getting older. The layered vocals make the song into something both spacey andintimate; the titular Rosalie could be someone we know, if not ourselves someday. All five members of Great Grandpa are expressive, creative musicians, but Alex Menne’s vocals drive thealbum and elevate the already introspective songs. On “Split Up The Kids” Menne employs a delicaterasp; “Digger” features her heart-wrenching howling; the closing track “Mostly Here” shows off herimpressive range. Menne’s voice on Four Arrows ranges from pained to angry to lost, always strong andunflinching in the face of expression. Sometimes her voice breaks like she’s been crying or is on theverge of it, but it never feels like a put-on inflection; whatever Menne is feeling, the listener will feel too.She captivates from beginning to end. Four Arrows is a step forward for Great Grandpa, signaling a maturity in songwriting and sonic range.The inclusion of violins, banjo, synthesizer, and, vitally, piano pushes the band past their previousstraight-forward grunge pop sound. This new sound and mood blends the less revelatory songstogether, and it’s not a feel-good dance album, but what is here is certainly beautiful. Great Grandpahas no where to go but forward.