The return of Let’s Eat Grandma (alongside the cosmic-lounge music of Arctic Monkeys) has, debatably, provided one of 2018’s most surprising reinventions. I’m All Ears is not, however, solely concerned with reinvention for the sake of reinvention, but is really the sound of late-teenage exploration and maturity.
Our teenage years are full of discovery. We are continually exploring the world and pertinently exploring ourselves. Biologically our bodies are staging a small rebellion in order to reach adulthood, without any conscious control. Furthermore, bonds are formed and broken both romantically and platonically; art and fashion tastes change; there is exposure to alcohol and late nights; and grander decisions with regards to one’s path through life are tentatively made with university and career decisions. It is a period of chaos. Let’s Eat Grandma have distilled that chaos on I’m All Ears into a 51-minute record, which examines their changing tastes and lives - embracing both direct pop and sprawling, progressive compositions.
The duo’s voyage into pop territory was signalled by the extra-ordinary lead single, “Hot Pink”, which finds childhood friends Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth embracing shorter but seismic hits of sugar-coated, experimental pop.
With co-production from Faris Badwan (of The Horrors) and pop provocatrice SOPHIE, “Hot Pink” also gestured towards a greater maturity and musculature in the two-piece’s song-writing. Straddling the borders delineated by PC Music, “Hot Pink” is a fizzy and thunderous rallying cry, which utilises juxtaposition - for example, visual images of the colour pink and ponies against industrial, kick-drum samples, which possess the strength of a stallion— to cleverly comment on gender misconceptions and ideas of self-expression.
“It’s Not Just Me” similarly employs a more direct modus operandi. With its excellent bridge, and twitchy, high-pitched chorus synthesisers, “It’s Not Just Me” is pure pop perfection. Yet also hidden beneath its saccharine, ear-worm melodies, is plenty of depth thematically. Duelling vocals muse upon romantic and platonic relationships, as well casting allusions to time passing and modern communication.
Although imbued with greater maturity and focus, Walton and Hollingworth’s striking sense of patience with regards to their song-writing style is carried forward from their debut record I, Gemini. On I’m All Ears, the two-piece continue to carefully construct progressive and labyrinthine pop songs, which unfurl with grace and poise.
Second single, “Falling Into Me” takes cues from the traditional pop structures explored within the aforementioned “Hot Pink” and “It’s Not Just Me”, but then casts aside any shackles to traditional structures, by perpetually evolving and exploring various motifs. Given the number of ideas presented within the shape-shifting “Falling Into Me”, it is a remarkably coherent and glorious listen.
Furthermore, “Snakes & Ladders” and “I Will Be Waiting” both highlight Walton and Hollingworth’s ability to cultivate tracks, which blossom organically. “Snakes & Ladders” dynamically shifts from soft, cinematic strummed guitars to delay-ridden howls and dense, shoe-gaze textures. Additionally, “I Will Be Waiting”’s latter half spectacularly blooms with a baggy break.
The monumental album closer, “Donnie Darko” is arguably the two-piece’s opus and the perfect demonstration of the duo’s measured brilliance. Throughout its 11-minute playtime, Let’s Eat Grandma confound all expectations, mutating through multiple sonic and emotional states. Opening with a simple synth-line, the tracks builds in waves before chattering snares and arpeggios add a propulsive force to the track. As the synths freeze, there is an almighty surge - a thirty second eruption of hair-raising noise that acts as the sound of catharsis and teenage liberation. While there are many sonic tangents to be found within “Donnie Darko”, the two-piece maintain a strong melodic focus, which retains the listener’s attention right until its last melancholic words are sung.
The challenge with presenting such progressive compositions primarily revolves around maintaining the audience’s attention. For the majority of I’m All Ears, Let’s Eat Grandma maintain one’s attention with aplomb. “Cool & Collected”’s languid build, however, may prove to be too slow for some, and its jam-like coda does not possess the striking dynamics of some of the other pieces found on the record. Ironically though, it is during the short musical introduction (the tacky, horror-soundtrack sounding “Whitewater”) and interludes (“Missed Call (1)”, “The Cat’s Pyjamas”) that the listener’s focus is lost. These short pieces unfortunately possess no purpose or appeal whatsoever.
I’m All Ears is a tender and honest record that moves at its own compelling pace. Reflecting Walton and Hollingworth’s growth and maturation over a period of approximately two years, it is a creative and infectious record, which after repeat listens, moves from being intriguing to simply irresistible.