Personnel: Michael Grubbs (vocals, piano, keyboards); Chris Cubeta (guitar, harmonium, keyboards, percussion).
Audio Mixer: Chris Cubeta.
Arranger: Michael Grubbs.
Wakey Wakey's passionate third LP, Overreactivist, opens with swelling strings and twinkling piano, where frontman Michael Grubbs finds his love heartbroken and hopeless. Instead of giving in, he urges them to hold on, just as the cleansing "Adam & Eve" sparkles to life. Here, he promises a fresh start for his Eve, but it's also a plea for rebirth and the salvation of a broken society. This sentiment is central on Overreactivist, a deeply personal journey of love and hope in a time when things don't always go as planned. After he switched things up with the pure pop of his 2014 sophomore effort, Grubbs has returned to the sound of his debut, where he utilized driving piano melodies to propel his story forward, much like the heart-on-the-sleeve piano pop of Ben Folds or Five for Fighting. His vocals push the subject matter to unabashedly earnest heights, at points sounding like Foreigner's Lou Gramm ("Freeze") or even Neil Diamond ("C'est la Vie"). Emotional and heartfelt, Grubbs lifts the spirit with a narrative that is vaguely political, tiptoeing between the personal and the big picture, resonating on multiple levels. As the title suggests, these are glimpses of how Grubbs (over)reacts to life, the disillusionment that might follow, and the need to keep going. In fact, that hope connects everything on Overreactivist, with at least four songs including lyrics reassuring that things will be "alright" ("Overreactivist," "Golden," "Freeze," and "Still Life"). This earnest positivity is undeniable, making even the harder-edged subjects on "Homeless Poets," "Cruel You," and "Stop Turning" seem empowering. Among the brightest points on the album, "Light & Nothing More" stands out. As a touching, purely poignant declaration of love that is readymade for the first dance at countless weddings, it is completely romantic and free of any uncertainty. At the close, Grubbs seems resigned to his lost love, or a lost society, before turning it all around. "The world will go on turning...the sun still shines upon you." After 13 songs of such sentiment, it's convincing enough to make even the most disheartened cynic a believer that one day everything might be alright. ~ Neil Z. Yeung