Grand Archives’ 2008 debut was a delightful sleeper of a record, steeped in classic Beach Boys-influenced pop and, it likely goes without saying, the warm and scruffy indie pop of their ex-Carissa’s Wierd contemporaries such as Band of Horses and Sera Cahoone. Yet while the group is subtler than many of their Pacific Northwest indie pop peers, there’s something refreshingly refined about their sound. While Band of Horses may have a glossy layer of guitar sheen thanks to Phil Ek, Grand Archives have a rustic, earthy quality about them, a friendly approachability and knack for melody that makes their music just as suited for campfire singalongs as it is for pairing with your morning coffee or hoisting a cigarette lighter in a rock club.
The group’s second album, Keep In Mind Frankenstein, largely continues the familiar path put forth on their debut, albeit with a few more bells and whistles as the arrangements call for them. Frankenstein opens softly and slowly with “Topsy’s Revenge,” a delicate acoustic plucker supposedly inspired by Thomas Edison electrocuting an elephant. While second track “Witchy Park/Tomorrow Will (Take Care Of Itself)” finds the pace picking up ever so slightly, it remains a light and breezy affair, carrying out its gorgeous progression of acoustic guitar and vocal harmonies over six minutes. It isn’t really until track three, “Silver Amongst the Gold” that Mat Brooke & Co. pick up some momentum, shuffling into a pretty but energetic pop track with more of those addictive vocal harmonies. “Oslo Novelist” stands out for its gorgeous lap steel work, while “Lazy Bones” is an atmospheric ballad that’s barely there, but what is there is magnificent. Baroque standout “Siren Echo Valley (Part 1)” finds former Carissa’s bandmate Sera Cahoone backing Brooke on a truly beautiful, but brief track. Meanwhile, “Dig That Crazy Grave” is a hand-clapping hoot, and “Siren Echo Valley (Part 2)” is a spectacular instrumental with dramatic saloon piano and Spaghetti Western guitars.
With Keep In Mind Frankenstein, Grand Archives are merely building on to the template they laid out last year on their first outing. The beauty of that is that they started with a simple, but repeatedly rewarding sound. As time goes on, it can only get bigger and better, even if the changes are ultimately subtle ones.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.