by Alex Colston (@re_colston)
Sophistication is an unmistakable quality of Grandkids’ music. Of course, sophistication, as a register of indie-rock these days, places acts among more high-profile, button-downed types like St. Vincent, Sufjan Stevens, even Sharon Van Etten—NPR-rock you could call it. What This Guitars does is wrestle back that polished sophistication for a younger, less domesticated audience, and we should be glad of it. This record, out on Champaign-Urbana’s local label Heirship Records, demonstrates that the height of composition and production doesn’t have to pair itself with bigger name indie labels to attain to the same quality.
What we have here is a record that sits you down. This Guitars owes its ability to hold your attention to the interlocking of its various elements and each track’s patiently explored possibilities. With the pacing of its unfolding, the collective guidance contributed by its members, and its seeming compositional ease this record takes treacherous turns down the musical mountain with grace and delivers the wisdom of the mount to the doorsteps of the listener. All that is to say, its accessibility is hard-won and its eloquence is plainspoken. Tracks like “Yip!” and “Seamripper” cut to the literal chase of the playful, on-the-go soundscapes that deliver the listener to their own interiority.
The lyrical searching of Vivian McConnell is at once open-ended and intimate; the complex setting of each track is well-served by her unstrained vocal delivery and the simplicity of her lyrics. It’s very much true that the instrumental environment crash-courses, pulls otherwise devastating punches, and moves implacably through however temporary, or fraught vistas. McConnell’s vocals are the hospitable host to a house of—not so much horrors—but colorful, psychically entangled encounters. By the time the record has ended, it’s hard to say how long you’ve been sitting down and a timeless, musical transport is these days a much desirable escape, to be sure.