The annual influx of hot tips from the American underground scene always throws up at least one discernible gem per year. Previous incumbents of such pre-ordained hype include the likes of Passion Pit, MGMT and Vampire Weekend and as 2011 opens its doors, the smart money would be on Grouplove to make the bold step up from grass roots independents to genuine trans-Atlantic success stories.
Unlike the aforementioned artists who've arrived with us more or less fully formed, this self-titled six-track EP pretty much documents Grouplove from their humble beginnings. Hailing from corners of the globe as far and wide as New York's Lower East Side, London, and LA's surfing scene, the story of Grouplove can be traced back to the back end of summer 2009 on the remote Greek Island of Crete. Singer and main songwriter Christian Zucconi and girlfriend-cum-keyboard player Hannah Hooper's brief acquaintances with English guitarist Sean Gadd and US counterparts Andrew Wessen and Ryan Rabin may read like a story lifted from a Hans Christian Andersen tale - had he written memoirs on rock bands rather than disturbing adventures for children - but those chance meetings and all five members' subsequent relocation to Los Angeles cemented the foundations for the undoubted potential highlighted throughout Grouplove.
With comparisons ranging from Vampire Weekend through to Modest Mouse and the more restrained alt-folk of Midlake, opener 'Colours' sets the scene in dramatic fashion. With its memorable "Huh, Hah" chorus refrain echoing Otis Redding's 'Working On The Chain Gang', the addition of a portent guitar solo straight out of J Mascis' songbook sets Grouplove apart from many of their contemporaries in recent years. 'Naked Kids' meanwhile seems to tell the story of the band's current situation, its chirpy introduction of "Cruising down the highway with my friends and we're all on our way to the beach" rivalling The Drums 'Let's Go Surfing' for its anthemic documentation of a teenager's day out on the LA coast (the main difference being guitarist Wessen is actually a professional surfer, fact fans).
That's not to say Grouplove is jam-packed with cheery jaunts. 'Goldcoast' takes an introverted route down a more refined path, Zucconi asking "What's your story? Is it glory? Cos that's the only way out there" with the poise of an experienced troubadour rather than fledgling musician just starting out. Similarly the semi-acoustic strum of 'Getaway Car' and polished Americana of 'Get Giddy' could be described as stifling were it not for the unashamed way Grouplove seemingly churn out insatiable melodies in their sleep even if the former's "If I lose my mind, will you take me up in a shooting star" matches some of Oasis' most calamitous lyrical couplets for cringe worthiness.
Overall though, Grouplove is a more than passable introduction to America's latest underground discoveries, and while still only early days in the band's songwriting career, the potential as to what Grouplove could capably achieve is astounding.
7Dom Gourlay's Score