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Grum – Heartbeats
08 July 2010, 12:00 Written by John Brainlove

Anyone who grew up with 1980s chart music is going to find something familiar in the feelgood pop sound of much-hyped Leeds-based producer Grum. His brilliant debut album Heartbeats is a devoutly retro twelve song collection of 1980s revivalist should-be hits, with traces of 90s big-beat influence and squiggles of 00s Ed Banger synth bringing it up to date.

Known to his mum as Graeme Shepherd, the 24-year-old Scotsman’s nom de guerre apparently comes from his grumpiness during his university years. But there’s a simple joy in these razor-sharp productions that suggests his downbeat demeanor might have come from too many hours spent in front of Fruityloops. Shepherd is on the record saying that he’s more music geek than club kid, and as a result his record is melody-based in a way that many dance producers neglect, packed with super-catchy motifs and perfect key changes. Title track ‘Heartbeats’ is an exhilarating 3-minute rollercoaster of beepy saccharine dance. Hyper-retro pop song ‘Turn It Up’ could be lifted directly from the opening credits from a John Hughes teen movie, seemingly taking pleasure in the absolute lyrical clichés it employs.

Grum is less self-consciously mainstream than Frankmusik, less of a work-in-progress than the mercurial frYars, and less arch than Chromeo – it feels like he has genuine love for the canon he’s drawing on. Every song on this album is fully formed enough to be released as an anthemic chart-storming single in it’s own right.

Heartbeats is an intoxicating sugar-rush of dance-pop mini-anthems. I’m not sure if this kind of pop music actually manages to communicate that first-love feeling more clearly than any other genre, or if it’s just my teenaged former self perking up his ears, but this record brings to mind first-date butterflies, pounding hearts and summer-night excitement more clearly than anything else I can think of. This is ‘going out music’ that’s way better than anything they’ll be playing at the club.

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