Those who find themselves in their orbit have been quick to describe Let’s Eat Grandma’s rawness and genre-agnosticism as otherworldly. This is probably a fair assessment: Their experiments are, on the surface, unrelentingly other, as much as they are worldly. Up until now though, this is a space that these childhood friends have constructed and conjured for themselves. The beatific mini-universe that first emerged on their 2016 debut, I, Gemini, flooded with vibrancy, uninhibited imaginations and shared experiences — It was the kind of world energised by sugar-rushes and spurred on by way of red-eyes glued to early-morning cartoons. A surrealism that evolves over time, filling in the cracks of boredom, partly explained by the human yearning for understanding.
“We have the same creative ideas and imaginations. It’s almost like, where all the games we used to play was just us and nobody was watching,” Jenny Hollingworth, one-half of Let’s Eat Grandma, told Loud and Quiet about the nature of their symbiotic relationship in at the time, “now it’s exactly the same but the difference is that there are lots of people looking in.”
I’m All Ears branches Let’s Eat Grandma — the Norwich-born and-raised duo consisting of Hollingworth and Rosa Walton — out beyond the insular. The lyrics are no longer coded and oblique, like you’re missing out on a private joke. Instead they explicitly explore their interactions with the world around them. Amid a hazy melange of bright, gooey synth-pop, melting psychedelia and tentative indie guitars, Gen Z folkloric superheroes are born.
The tone is set early: Searing, glitchy, bloodied melancholy burst I’m All Ears into life, evoking a certain type of memory. ‘Whitewater’ harbours flashes of nightmarish gore; experiences turned sour, minds crestfallen, bodies aching and blistered. Retaining this snarling attitude, the album propulses onward. Two of the many iridescent gems on their sophomore album come courtesy of the mutant-electro, synthetic-pop reckoning of PC Music auteur, SOPHIE, who takes reign of the production alongside Horrors’ master-shapeshifter, Faris Badwan, on ‘Hot Pink’ and ‘It’s Not Just Me’. On the former, a bludgeoning pop typhoon, Walton and Hollingworth excavate the dynamics of gender scripts with an injection of feminine defiance, their vocals careening between convulsing, rusty, industrial clamouring and dreamy, misty synths: This is a welcome and bold new direction from the duo, as powerfully unnerving as it is danceable.
Where Walton’s voice begins and Hollingworth’s ends, and vice versa, is immediately unclear. It’s not pertinent to their ideas or their distillation of mind-circling emotions. “I pave the backstreet with the mist of my brain,” the first line bellows out on the excellent pop extravagance of ‘Falling Into Me’, each syllable pronounced emphatically as if projecting frustration. Glossy synths overlap soporific drums, their voices whistling by, before the track reinvents itself with crunching electronics and neon-disco glitz. By any modern pop standards, this is exquisitely executed earworm music, shrouded in mystique and moondust.
‘Ava’ — a solemn, quiet, intimate piano ballad that meditates on the masking of internal struggles — gently breaks up the expansiveness of ‘Cool & Collected’ and ‘Donnie Darko’ (the album’s sprawling closer). In turn, the radiant synth-pop of the latter, in all of it’s PVC glory, bedded atop a gliding guitar, is an 11-minute deep-dive into the recesses of their wildly fascinating musical minds. A wistful cut, it snapshots their growth, yet they never relinquish their inner Bohemians. “Hear the buzz of the hornet fly/Trapped inside of my orchid mind,” the vocals almost sing-rap around the halfway mark, the sweetly twanging accent beaming in from within their mini-universe. They, as outsiders, exemplify what makes music so pure and delicate to the soul.
Hollingworth and Walton trade the whimsical for expertly-articulated pop bravura on this excellent sophomore release, a document that will stand to represent their evolution from promising leftfield weirdos into fully-fledged artists and pop pariahs. Their unapologetically fun and brave vision is no longer simply of picturesque interest; it has yielded newfound depth, even outright pandemonium. And we have all been welcomed in this time for the view. Colin Gannon