Recording information: Avast Studio, Seattle; The Fortoon, Downtown, LA.
Photographer: James Marcus Haney.
On their buoyant, third full-length album, 2016's Big Mess, Los Angeles' Grouplove continue their transformation from a kinetic, hippie-dance pop outfit into a mature, if still playful, radio-ready act. The album follows the group's equally inspired 2013 effort Spreading Rumors, and showcases the talents of lead vocalist/guitarist Christian Zucconi, lead vocalist/keyboardist Hannah Hooper, drummer Ryan Rabin, guitarist Andrew Wessen, and bassist Daniel Gleason, who replaced Sean Gadd in 2014. Once again, Rabin (son of Yes' Trevor Rabin) takes the production helm. However, in the spirit of transformation, the group also brought on seasoned pro Phil Ek (Band of Horses, the Shins, Built to Spill), who produced a handful of tracks. The result is that while Big Mess retains all of the band's exuberant, over-the-top pop fun, it's a finely honed insanity that balances the indie sensibilities of MGMT with the kooky pop lyricism of Barenaked Ladies. Also adding to the album's emotional impact is the band's newfound maturity in light of several years of hard touring away from home and the birth of Zucconi and Hooper's first child. The couple's vocal symmetry has always been a huge part of what makes Grouplove's sound so engaging, and their growth, both personally and creatively, is evident throughout Big Mess. It's a theme they tackle straight-away on the soaring lead-off track "Welcome to Your Life," singing, "Been wondering, I take a chance/That chance is circumstance/'Cause nothing ever comes without a change." Elsewhere, cuts like the bombastic "Do You Love Someone," "Standing in the Sun," and the pulsing, electronic dance music-infused "Good Morning," find the band staking out the improbable, and improbably likeable, middle ground between Katy Perry and the Pixies. Similarly, tracks like the yearning "Heart of Mine" and romantic "Enlighten Me" bring to mind an engaging mix of the Flaming Lips and Fun.. Which isn't to say that Grouplove don't sound like themselves here. On the contrary, they've simply reached the place where they are able to channel their influences through their own voice and their own experiences. Ultimately, by celebrating those life experiences on Big Mess, Grouplove have crafted an ecstatic, joyful album. ~ Matt Collar