Review Summary: I remember the life / I remember the laughter-- A collaborative review by Sunnyvale & JesperL --
Watching The Grass Grow
was released the only way Ruby Haunt would and probably could have unveiled it: on a Thursday, with close to zero promotion as nothing was revealed about the record beforehand apart from a few singles quietly lingering on streaming platforms. It feels rather peaceful: in an age of month-long album release campaigns, endless streams of singles and other attempts to grab people’s attention, Ruby Haunt prefer to let their music speak for itself. And speak it does, albeit in a beautifully subdued voice.
Sadly, this does mean that Ruby Haunt aren’t exactly Mega World Famous Superstars. The Los Angeles-based band have steadily emerged as one of the best unsung musical groups of the last decade. While their early works are comprised of largely unspectacular (if solid) dream pop, the recent three album run, from 2018’s Blue Hour
onwards, have seen the duo come into their own. Merging their highly atmospheric take on dream pop with slowcore influences and a prevalent sensation
of Americana were key to this success. The album artwork for the band’s previous three LPs personifies the exact vibes of the music: hazey, bright, pretty, but with something a little grim lurking just under the surface. While most ventures within the dream pop sphere tend to project a cosmopolitan urban feel, Ruby Haunt’s recent efforts summon a feeling of rural loneliness and desolation. While Blue Hour
and The Middle Of Nowhere
were strong albums carried primarily by exquisite atmospheres rather than particularly memorable songs, the band took a significant step forward on 2020’s Tiebreaker
, combining their usual solid ambience with a crop of memorable tunes propelled by gentle guitars and keyboard-focused melodies. The gorgeously brooding results weren’t quite enough to merit the status of a classic, but landed the record a well-deserved spot among last year’s strongest musical efforts. Combined with a great little two-song EP released earlier in 2021, expectations among those aware of Ruby Haunt’s existence for the new full-length Watching The Grass Grow
were sky-high. Does it deliver?
Opening cut ‘Pyro’ can only be interpreted as a resounding ‘yes’. Don’t be mistaken; it’s a calm, understated ‘yes’, but an affirmation nonetheless. It’s the type of song that swallows the listener whole, draining every ounce of capability for critical analysis from my body. But hey, let’s try and dissect its beauty regardless. ‘Pyro’ is built on the foundation of one simple, meandering riff: it gently increases in prevalence for two minutes before Wyatt Innins’ soft vocals add an even greater sense of comfort to the song. Its post rock-infused beauty is the perfect vehicle for lyrics of despair and destruction, adding bewitchingly wistful touches to words describing anything but bliss: “Never’d guess how it would shatter / In the palm of my hand
”. These more expansive vibes are prevalent throughout Watching The Grass Grow
; as the record is even more focused on atmosphere and lush textures than Ruby Haunt’s previous works. Take ‘Hummingbird’ and ‘Dusty’: both are fully instrumental songs, yet disregarding them as ‘mere’ interludes would be an insult to their significance on the album. The former distinguishes itself with heavenly guitar-led melodies, whereas ‘Dusty’ adds a wonderful new layer by introducing gentle strings to the band’s sound.
While the aforementioned ‘Pyro’ and the more immediate, rock-oriented second track ‘Roman Candle’ set up Watching The Grass Grow
as a more diverse listen than Ruby Haunt have ever attempted before, the seven remaining songs are admittedly a tad homogenous. Throughout this stretch, while more expansive and atmospheric than the band’s previous works, the music still sits comfortably within familiar confines. From ‘Jawbone’s smooth textures to ‘Silver’s gently twinkling keyboards, there is something to indulge in within every corner of the album. The latter song’s final moments seem rather self-reflective, perfectly describing Watching The Grass Grow
’s approach: “When looking back has served its purpose / I’ll bring it back for another twirl
Is Watching The Grass Grow
Ruby Haunt’s best work yet? The answer to this particular question will depend on each listener’s personal preferences, even if it is undeniable that the band’s most recent output has been nothing but top-tier indie. With their latest release, Ruby Haunt have amped up the already substantial sonic beauty factor to eleven and introduced some delightful new influences to expand their sound. While it could be argued that Tiebreaker
was slightly more successful in crafting an all-encompassing mood, Watching The Grass Grow
is a wonderful record and hints at an incredibly bright future for the duo. Lyrically as dark as ever, the album introduces more introspection and reduces the sinister undertones of previous works, crafting something which remains distinctly Ruby Haunt while demarcating a new, gorgeous, and essential chapter in the band’s path.