Los Angeles’ Grouplove return with their fourth album, Healer, on 13 March, and introduced their UK fans to the new material with a performance at Kings Cross’ newest venue, Lafayette.
Grouplove’s biggest hit to date ‘Tongue Tied’ was one of the first songs they released as a band, and is a signature slice of pop-rock with its bouncing drum line, sugary refrain and carefree lyricism. This sound and style have in some ways gone on to define Grouplove throughout their career to date. However, third album, Big Mess represented an evolutionary moment for the band, where the bright colours and exuberant energy of their music was matched with increasing maturity and self-awareness. Single ‘Welcome To Your Life’ introduced band leads and married couple, Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi’s daughter to the world, whilst ‘Traumatized’ demonstrated vulnerability over a snarling guitar line.
Healer represents an acceleration of this growth for the band and a step change musically. Lead single ‘Deleter’ brings an immediate sense of urgency to the record, exploring Zucconi’s worries of an institutional crisis within society, with its refrain of “all this time I thought you were a leader / It turns out you’re only a deleter” and verses filled with lines such as “the world will recover once you put us in the past.” ‘Promises’ continues this exploration of societal challenge (“how many bullets does it take to put a hole in the lie”), with this political slant bringing a refreshing new depth and meaning to Grouplove’s songwriting.
The band also continue to push their musical boundaries, with second single ‘Youth’ a slice of electro infused pop that brings a sense of innocence and freedom, with its refrain of “the night’s so young, lets set it on fire (Buncha kids and we’re playing with matches)”; an anthem for keeping your inner child alive. Elsewhere on the record, ‘Expectations’ is a synth led exploration of the highs and lows of relationships, whilst ‘Places’ is a delicate, heartfelt acoustic-led number that perfectly frames the imperfections in co-lead singer, Christian Zucconi’s falsetto.
This experimentation is not entirely surprising when the context of the album is considered – in recording Healer the band “found feeling again”, having endured a difficult period following the release of Big Mess, with the death of a close friend, health challenges for Hooper and the feeling of reaching an artistic low point. Whilst recording Healer helped Grouplove find happiness in making music again, there are still indications of the impact these experiences had on the group personally and musically. ‘Ahead Of Myself’ touches on the challenges behind them (“It must be tough for you holding all that inside”), whilst ‘Burial’ has a jarring synth line and stuttering drums that frame a darker sound and vulnerability.
Playing the opening night at Lafayette, the band brought their signature energy to the stage in a sold-out show that highlighted the depth of discography Grouplove – completed by Andrew Wessen, Daniel Gleason and Benjamin Homola – are developing. Zucconi and Hooper have an effortless chemistry, as you might expect, and provide an infectious on-stage presence. They are supported by a powerful, tight knit band, who play with a palpable and contagious energy. Hit songs ‘Colour’, ‘Tongue Tied’, ‘Ways To Go’, ‘Itchin on a Photograph’ and ‘Shark Attack’ all sounded fantastic in the new venue, as the band bounded around the stage drawing from all four of their albums. New tracks previewed on the night included ‘Deleter’, ‘Youth’, ‘Inside Out’, ‘Ahead of Myself’ and ‘Burial’, sitting comfortably alongside their better know partners whilst bringing notable range and depth to the setlist.
This sense of evolution dominates Healer and marks a step forward for a band too easily pigeonholed in the past, in a fantastic return to form. The album was recorded between Sonic Ranch in El Paso with producer Dave Sitek (TV on Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Weezer) and at Larrabee Studios in LA with Malay (Frank Ocean, Lorde).
Healer is released on 13 March via Canvasback Music and Parlophone Records. Pre-order HERE.
Photo: James Marcus Haney