Following a much-needed three-year hiatus, Grouplove is back serving fans the sounds that were missed so dearly on its latest release, “Healer.” The five-piece, Los Angeles-based group took a break after frontman Christian Zucconi and vocalist Hannah Hooper, who’re married, were expecting their first child. This pause in Grouplove’s career had fans craving the release of “Healer.”
Despite the wait, the album may not be everything fans were hoping for. Some songs may become fan-favorites both on and off stage, but the album as a whole slightly missed the iconic free-spirited Grouplove sound fans all know and love.
“Deleter,” a single released on Jan. 8, opens the album on a strong note with fast guitar strums, and catchy lyrics bound to make listeners dance. The song reflects Grouplove’s powerfully youthful sound and verses even though they’re grounded in politics.
In an interview with triple j, Zucconi explained that “Deleter” is a song about how "the world is in a crazy place right now, and we all need something to rally us with." The song will keep fans hooked after the first couple seconds.
Grouplove’s euphoric and experimental sound is present on “Inside Out,” a song about bringing out the best in a significant other. It may have listeners melting into puddles with the back and forth singing between soulmate vocalists Zucconi and Hooper with lyrics such as “Baby / You amaze me.” It’s full of romantic chemistry that fans will be aching to see live, especially if they’ve seen the duo in concert before.
“Expectations” opens up with head-spinning, genre-crossing sounds, throwing listeners into an exciting and unpredictable experience. Hooper’s vocals instill freedom within fans, urging them to surrender high expectations and eliminate inevitable disappointment with lyrics like “Why not shine? / You got too much expectations.” The track envelops one in carefree bliss, perfectly fitting for an evening summer car ride with the windows down.
“The Great Unknown'' isn't necessarily bad, but it’s not going to be a favorite either. In this song, Zucconi and Hooper sing about the uncertainty of the future. Its playful chant-like chorus misses the mark and seems as though the group wrote the song too quickly, with nonsense lyrics like “E-I, E-I, E-I-O-O” following with rhyming lines like “You-I, me-I, she-I must know.” However, the musicality is enjoyable due to its easygoing, vibey beats. Although it’s not a track that prompts a skip, it may not be one that listeners revisit often.
The fifth track, “Youth,” opens up with an intriguing synth beat and progresses with vocals from Hooper and sporadic harmonies with Zucconi. The chorus is catchy, with lyrics, “That's just my youth takin' over,” repeating four times. The song as a whole is somewhat static, but it’s a sensible and soothing transition into the ethereal acoustic track “Places.”
The band follows its political agenda in “Promises,” calling out political leaders as men “in a stupid costume” for the false hope they instill in the U.S. The aggravated tone is present in both melody and repetitive lyrics but disappoints in the projection of its political message because of the lack of musical risk-taking. Although the message is moving, the song isn’t the most groundbreaking, as the band seems to play it a bit too safe with a lack of experimental sounds the band usually produces.
The album picks back up with “Ahead of Myself,” an interesting, anthem-like song about intense party habits. The slow tune is carried through with acoustic guitar chords, maracas and Hooper’s vocals. Hooper sings about drinking as a form of release from her chaotic life. Even though she knows it’s not good for her health, she sings, “there ain’t much time” left. Zucconi makes an appearance in the bridge with a creative take on personifying alcohol as if it’s speaking and comforting Hooper in lyrics such as “I’ll make you feel alright.”
Grouplove finishes the album off strong with songs “Hail to the Queen,” “Burial” and “This is Everything.” “Hail to the Queen” stands out with a memorable bassline that leads through the entire song. It goes back to the band’s nostalgia-inducing roots, as it truly encompasses Grouplove’s staple sound.
“Burial” is another stand-out track for its enticing opening, dynamic tempo changes from verse to chorus and closing powerful shout-singing from Zucconi. It’s about experiencing self-doubt and a lack of confidence. And with lyrics like “If I'm bein' honest / This'll be our last song,” fans may be concerned with what the future for Grouplove holds. This tune could be one forceful final performance during a tour, especially with the dance-inducing and wild vocals toward the end. Just as this song could easily be the closing song on tour, it should’ve been the closing song on the album.
Echoing guitar chords open “This is Everything,” the final song on “Healer.” Although “Burial” seems to fit well as the final track on the album, “This is Everything” is a tribute to producing an album after the band’s hiatus. This love song is a sweet and endearing reminder to not only the married couple but the band as a whole that being together is everything and more than they could ever ask for.
“Healer” is definitely no “Never Trust A Happy Song” or “Spreading Rumours,” as some songs fall flat. But, the album does have some amazing summertime tracks to be revisited over and over. There just seems to be a missing piece of Grouplove’s sound that fans had been so eager to hear again.
Contact Diana DeVincent at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.