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Grouplove, Spreading Rumours

By Maggie Nichols | published Thursday, November 7, 2013 |
Thursday Review Contributor

After the smashing success and critical praise for Never Trust a Happy Song, Grouplove’s dazzling 2011 album (it featured the great songs “Itchin’ on a Photograph” and “Tongue Tied” among others), it did not seem possible for the band to match that same level of music-lover happiness. But their new collection album Spreading Rumours demonstrates that the curse of second and third album duds does not apply to Grouplove. There are few weak spots on this new release; indeed nearly all the songs are potent and rich with potential for single success, and the album as a whole seems already assured of praise from fans.

There are two immediate and notable differences between this new album and their last effort: some songs have a deliberately harder, edgier quality to them (“Borderlines & Aliens” being the tune which instantly strikes the listener as more intense and driven than anything in their catalog so far, and their one song which could most easily be described as hard rock); and some songs are more elaborately and carefully mixed and produced, giving the overall effect of a slicker sound—pleasing, to be sure, and hopefully not a disappointment to fans who liked the informal, loose sounds of Never Trust a Happy Song.

Spreading Rumours contains many high points and pleasing, infectious songs, including “Schoolboy” and “Ways to Go,” both of which bear perhaps the closest resemblance to the sweet-spot harmonies and ticklish, complex rhythms from the previous collection. As always, the vocal mix of band members is entirely likeable and catchy, especially Hannah Hooper’s wide range of vocal tones and emotions employed as a foil for the various high-range male vocal parts. “Shark Attack,” another candidate for single-release, showcases this band’s love of creating great vocal harmonies and vocal layering. By design, the vocal combinations sometimes evoke a kind of preteen/early teen innocence and wonderment, even in the songs meant to have an edgier sound, as in “Didn’t Have to Go” and “News to Me,” a highly successful musical element which gives the band their one-of-a-kind voiceprint.

Early this year Thursday Review listed Grouplove’s 2011 release as one of the previous year’s best albums, and I predict that Spreading Rumours will easily make the cut for best dozen for 2013.