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Positive Feedback ISSUE 45
september/october 2009


Grand Archives, Keep in Mind Frankenstein
by Michael Mercer


Sub Pop (released Sept. 15th, 09)

Nothing punctuates the beginning of summer's end like sweet mood music. The Grand Archives Keep in Mind Frankenstein screams for sunset (or sunrise) listening sessions, without actually screaming it. This mood is mellow; slacked off while sounding tight and airy at the same time. Think the floatiness of Air and Mojave 3 blended with the hippy sway of The Shins, and add a touch of Elbow perhaps. Whatever the comparisons may be, this band has done a superb job on their sophomore effort. With the fall bearing down on our door, I know this record won't leave our iPod for quite some time.

After reading about the inspiration behind "Topsy's Revenge"; the album's opening track, in their press release, how it was "inspired by the infamous 1903 newsreel footage of Thomas Edison electrocuting a rogue Coney Island elephant" I knew it would at the very least be interesting enough to warrant a listen. The music just washed over the speakers. Its airy guitar licks and old school (almost Beach Boy style) lyrics and vocals just soothed our souls. There was nothing offensive about it, at least not for me. There is also nothing Earth shattering here, and from what I hear they didn't want to be. This should find its way into many indie soundtracks.

The vocals on "Oslo Novelist" sound like Elliot Smith if his music had been more positive (not saying he needed to be, he was simply brilliant) singing over Ivy's Apartment Life record. The intro to "Dig That Crazy Grave" sort of sounds like a modern day Jimmy Buffet (not an insult by any measure). It has this island vibe to it, a bounce and a swagger like being on vacation. Some of the gorgeous sounds in Keep in Mind Frankenstein are play on instruments the Grand Archives created! According to statements in their one-sheet there was a "mammoth glass harp" built by "mounting multiple wine glasses on a plank". There are also familiar tones in the album that are difficult to place; could be the apparent result of the harp builder "filling the wine glasses with liquid and rubbing the rims with his fingertips to make noise."

These things are not the center of their music however. Many bands these days get caught up in trying to sound original so badly they just sound like noise. Naturally you absorb your influences, it's merely a question of whether you spend all your time trying to sound like them, or all your time just creating whatever comes out. This band is clearly going with the flow, and it's a cascading ride of soulful harmonies and schlock rock aimed at pleasing the senses, not assaulting them.

The sonics are silky and romantic sounding. This is atmospheric pop music, and it sounds like you might expect (or not, if you still think Mapleshade is the best label). The floaty guitar strings have that leading edge you need, even if the music is softer. The laid-back voice of singer-guitarist Mat Brooke shares some characteristics with Blitzen Trapper's Eric Earley and the producers didn't squash anything enough to conceal the detailing of his vocals. The drums are vividly resolved, and it's a necessary choice for music like this. With the mood so mellow, the dynamics of the drums can pull you back if you start to melt. Or perhaps that was their intention as well; to make the listener melt into one's chair. The combination of the decent sound and light-heartedness of Keep in Mind Frankenstein make it a splendid accompaniment to a midnight or sunrise drive to the coast. Bring on the changing leaves and outdoor festivals! I hope to see the Grand Archives as soon as possible.