Review Summary: Step into whatever you want to and let your spirits bloom.Four of Arrows
is an album of grandiose mini epics, all while somehow remaining wistful and subdued. On their sophomore album, Great Grandpa are mainly questioning their place in the world. From “Mono No Aware”, where they question the validity of their emotions when compared to those of others, to “Bloom”, which is wondering when, if ever, they will feel as if they have adequately achieved enough for their age, to “Treat Jar”, where they continuously second-guess why they don’t give up on a relationship that gives no reciprocity. Every song tells a story, one that paints nostalgia and questions of the future, but that never feels dated, solipsistic, or frightened. Instead, they are just stories of life that we have all experienced, that may not be that important, yet somehow feel as though they are leading to defining moments in the shape of our identities.
It’s clear from opener “Dark Green Water” that Great Grandpa is ready to show where their influences lie. A slow jam 90s-inspired indie rocker that wouldn’t sound out of place on the radio in between Weezer and Alanis Morissette, with off-kilter hints that ring out Radiohead, the album is a slow-burn melodic indie rocker. Second track “Digger” is truly the thesis of the sound of the album. As Great Grandpa said in an interview with Stereogum leading up to the release of Four of Arrows
- “Go slow, big choices”. Even though “Digger” may be a slow burn of a song, it absolutely teems with energy. From a subdued verse with an Americana twang, the song explodes in the chorus with Alex Menne’s voice crying out “That’s why I hate you” in the first iteration of the chorus, but transitioning to an equally impassioned “That’s why I love you” as the chorus returns later in the song. An emotional pillar that shows that this band is clearly that - a band. Each musician perfectly plays off of each other, creating a melding of sounds and a beautiful wall of intertwined noises. “Dark Green Water” is the first sign that Four of Arrows
is a truly communal experience.
That blend is also what lends Four of Arrows
to a comparison of classic epics. The band takes their time to reach the conclusion of the journey of each song. It uses all forty-four minutes of its run-time to share its messages. That being said, the song structure can end up becoming somewhat predictable. The formula appears to be start slow-> build up to a chorus-> subdue again-> build even more-> subdue again-> crash course to the end-> hushed ending. However, there are enough creative melodies and craftsmanship in the musicianship that each song has its own unique identity. In a brilliant move, a Debussy-inspired piano sonata in “Endling” appears halfway through the tracklist to act almost as an intermission for our epic, as well as to work to break up any monotony that may have threatened to spill over to the back half of the album.
Of course, like any great epic, the words used to describe the story are perhaps the most important part of the journey. Again, Great Grandpa does not disappoint. “Rosalie” and “Split Up the Kids” are particularly effective. The former tells the story of the deteriorating condition of a hospice patient and offers perhaps the best emotional climax of the album, both musically and lyrically, as Menne sings “Odd things, throw the cereal on the ceiling/Stretched screams, swollen/speech, void of meaning/Sad scenes can be beared, can be handled/No thing keeps me up, keeps us screaming
”. “Split Up the Kids” recalls the stories of different tormented families in particularly heart wrenching detail, all in a hushed manner, meaning it becomes one of the few songs on the album to break free of the aforementioned relied-upon song structure.
While Four of Arrows
is in no-way a concept album and doesn’t tell one particular story across it tracks, it holds many stories of a shared human existence. The album title takes its name from a tarot card, a card which is also somewhat artistically represented in the album cover. The meaning of this card is that a person is in need of peace and quiet, as well as introspection. Paradoxically, it also means that the person who has received the card has faith and has received spiritual counseling. These are the two ideas that Great Grandpa have also entangled together: a confusion around the ties we have to the world around us, but the belief that we can make that world our own.