Canvasback. · March 13, 2020
Grouplove’s fourth studio album Healer comes after an almost four-year hiatus. Grouplove, the band most well-known for their 2011 hit “Tongue Tied,” found inspiration for Healer in the American political climate as well as the personal lives of the band members. Part of the album was recorded in El Paso, Texas, where Grouplove witnessed firsthand the experiences of juveniles being held at the Mexican border. Vocalist Hannah Hooper also received brain surgery during this time, bringing a deeper meaning to the idea of healing. Healer, while sometimes missing the mark on the alt indie sound that brought the group to fame, offers an inspiring message about living in the moment and feeling carefree even in the darkest of times.
The album opens with “Deleter,” its lead single released in January. It offers an upbeat, classic alternative sound as frontman Christian Zucconi sings about breaking expectations, including lines like, “Am I anxious / or just modern?” Yet, with such a successful opening track, the rest of the album leaves something to be desired.
One example of this includes the lyrics on “The Great Unknown.” The song opens with a scene about a farmer, and leads in the chorus: “E-I, E-I, E-I-O-O / We like, we like to watch it grow / You-I, me-I, she-I must know / When everything around us is going dim.” It isn’t necessarily bad, but a bit corny and rushed.
“Promises” reflects a deeper theme, with standout lyrics such as “Nothin’ disappoints me like the news” and “Closin’ your eyes and tellin’ lies / While they’re taking our daughters.” However, the light-hearted, country-like instrumentals take away from the seriousness of the lyrics, making it more difficult for listeners to receive the political message.
“Hail to the Queen” is one of the album’s highlights, as it is the closest song on Healer to Grouplove’s original sound. It is followed by “Burial” and “This is Everything,” which both offer dynamic elements to the album as a whole. At the end of the former, frontman Christian Zucconi’s shouted vocals add a layer of anguish that fits the song’s theme: “I’m broken but you can’t break me.” In the latter, Hooper and Zucconi give fans a personal look into their lives together as partners and parents of their only child. Their voices mesh well throughout the chorus, and Zucconi’s vocals feel authentic as he sings, “Crawl to me inside, yeah / Talk to me tonight, yeah / Fall into my eyes, yeah.”
For an album that took inspiration from such heavy topics as immigration and brain surgery, it’s surprising that the album’s sound doesn’t match its themes. Yet, as Grouplove matures as a band and as individuals, it’s logical that their sound has moved away from the traditional alt indie sound. While Healer lacks in some ways, it certainly proves that Grouplove practices what it preaches: finding the good even in the worst moments of life.