Grandpa Egg’s third studio album comes in the form of a two disc story book release featuring 23 colourful, complex and often provocative songs. The general concept deals with the lives of a pair of young social outcasts who watch cartoons, read old letters, and take refuge underneath a big willow tree in the backyard. It’s a refreshingly interesting idea for a musical project, and it makes for a thoroughly unexpected, detailed and compelling listen.
Jungle Joe kicks things off, presenting a soft and acoustic audio experience, with an equally delicate leading voice to really help ease you into the music. The melody is gorgeous, this song makes for a beautiful introduction to the project – the imagery and story line remain in keeping with the thoughtful ambiance as well as preparing you for what’s to come.
Moving-In Song follows on, lifting the pace a little with a strummed ukulele rhythm, bringing about a joyful folk-rock energy but still holding close to that gentleness. Not only is the music so far enjoyable to listen to, the lyrics are poetic and considerate in the way that only authentic, heartfelt folk music classically is. Throughout the journey there are moments of joy as well as sadness, moments of high energy as well as low, and all the while the leading vocal carries you through the instrumental arenas in a way that feels very genuine and trustworthy.
Box Of Letters switches to a much more melancholic, slightly haunting ambiance. The simplicity is captivating, simply the picked string riff and the delicate tremolo of the leading voice, accompanied later by a slightly vintage crackle, some notes from the keys, and the odd interesting detail – the likes of which fill out the bulk of this album in a subtle yet artistic way. This is in the form of realism, in my opinion – you can hear the recording process or the reality of the situations, which adds a touch of further truth to the folk core of the music.
Up & At’Em brings back the pace and brightness, the sound of nature, the ongoing story telling. There’s notably more instrumental weight to certain songs and so it’s worth appreciating the importance of arrangement and how well this has been incorporated in the collection. Eighteen Sets Of Eyes keeps a steady pace yet turns to the minor side of musical composition, drawing you in with the intriguing story line, keeping you involved with the gradually evolving melody and soundscape. A touch of world-music comes through here that broadens the experience beyond that of folk, hence the psych-folk label, among other possibilities. This one is a personal favourite – the atmospheric quality and the melody, as well as the concept, really leave their mark on you.
Certain songs on this album are categorized as letters – the old letters the outcasts read together. These make for some fairly intense moments, during which a simple musical backdrop floats beneath a softly melodic or spoken word segment that really brings the story time element alive. Sucking At The Air is one of the most captivating; something about the voice, the emotion – it really grabs you.
In among the journey lie many unpredictable and previously untold stories. Certain titles draw you in alone for their somewhat outlandish implications – Dead Hamster, Fishhooks in My Brain, and Young Korean Girl Sits Alone Before Being Jumped By Bullies are just a few examples. There is so much honesty within many of the songs that it soon becomes something you simply can’t ignore. The third person approach is often utilised to set the scene effectively, to paint a clear picture for you. As well as this though, there are many moments of sheer human depth and emotion that really reach out and connect on a fairly profound yet personal level. In many ways, these songs are theatrical endeavors – they feel like performances, complex and multi-layered – Dead Hamster (Letter 4) is the perfect example – the meeting between music and drama, calm and chaos, darkness and light.
Young Korean Girl Sits Alone Before Being Jumped By Bullies is an incredibly artistic and clever musical representation, within which the artist has used the title to lay the foundation, and then explored the details and the emotions of the tale with an intense and ever changing instrumental soundscape. Appreciating again the arrangement, the importance of contrast – Betrayal Song follows this one and creates around you a subtle, organic ambiance and a deeply personal expression of sorrow and regret.
Never Again, Without A Friend brings things to a close, wrapping up the stories, the experience, the lives of the central characters, in a delicately acoustic and musically heartbreaking yet hopeful way. This song is beautiful, reflective, inspiring, melodic, loaded with gorgeous harmonies, and really well written and performed.
This is an undeniably unique album. To listen in full is really the only appropriate way to take it on. Having said that, many of the songs work well as single entities, it’s just that the entire experience is one that appears before you like a movie or stage show would. It’s a defiantly special project that fans of stories, folk music, and alternative artistry alike will enjoy embracing.
We did not intend to make such a long record,
but 23-songs is what it took to tell the stories we had in-mind. – Grandpa Egg.