On last year’s Yes Yes Okay Okay, Pacific Northwest outfit Graves presented themselves as an understated, intimate sort of band. None of their songs were overblown or melodramatic — they all seemed to breeze by with a serene coolness about them. And yet, that calm is exactly what leaves a major impact on the listener. Because of how quiet, how subtle and how unassuming the album is, it takes a more focused listen, y our ears picking up the slightest details each time. On first listen, Graves’ follow-up album, To Sur With Love, is very similar. Yet, before long, it’s quite apparent that there’s a lot more going on on this disc, even if the volume hasn’t raised much.
Recorded over a four-year period, To Sur With Love is the product of a more labored and drawn out process. Though Greg Olin’s songwriting style is essentially the same style that he exhibited on Okay, the songs in this batch are richer and fuller in sound, more layered and densely arranged. The beginning beats and sound effects on “Honeypot” bring to mind the trippy dub effects of the Tom Tom Club, yet the song is pure, breezy lounge bliss. And follower “Touch the Sun” is a lovely, graceful track with the same laid-back, yet classic feel of Sondre Lerche.
It’s not until “Deep Space Team” that Olin really shows his stuff, however. Though still reasonably quiet, the song carries some freaked-out saxophone squeaks and rock `n’ roll guitar riffs that would have sounded out of place on Olin’s previous work. Here, however, it’s pretty damn cool. “Not Any More At Night” is like-minded indie pop with a peppy beat and some fuzzed-out bass. And in these tracks, Graves begin to sound more like an Elephant Six band than a lone guy singing songs in his bedroom to his 4-track recorder.
To Sur With Love feels like a natural progression from Yes Yes Okay Okay, the keyword being “progression.” Though I must admit I became pretty attached to that record, it’s fun to see where Olin is taking his music now. Some of it is very similar. Some is reasonably different. And considering it took four years, some of these songs may actually be older than those on Okay. Because of that reason, many don’t carry the perfectly simple and concise feel of that record. Still, Love displays new, interesting aspects of the Graves sound that had previously gone unheard.
Sondre Lerche – Faces Down
Belle and Sebastian – If You’re Feeling Sinister
Beulah – Handsome Western States
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.