Grand Lake’s website is pretty artsy. There’s some elaborate, flowery language about the band’s sound, and a picture of a horse wearing a dress shirt (refer to album art). There’s also a lot of talk about how labels shouldn’t matter in music, and how they don’t apply to Grand Lake. So what if a band sounds a little bit like some other band? The mission statement does acknowledge possible sonic similarities to bands like the Pixies and Frog Eyes, but “if that was ever the point then it was, and now it isn’t.”
Whatever. Grand Lake shouldn’t be so concerned—malleability is one of their most attractive features. It explains why strummy album opener “It Takes a Horse to Light a House” immediately recalls the New Pornographers’ “Challengers” (in the chord progression) and the Besnard Lakes (in the effects-heavy production), but never comes across as a patchwork theft job, combining those disparate parts into something new and exciting. “Concrete Blonde on Blonde (808 South)” conjures the same art-drenched, fist-pounding drama as early Arcade Fire—from the twinkling glockenspiels to the strings to the barely on-beat bass drum, it sounds like a forgotten Funeral b-side, but it’s also… well, one of the year’s most epic indie rock songs. “My Father Is a Forest Full of Trees” is no slouch, either, building, layer by layer, to a cathartic, shouted “la la la” chant over fuzz bass and slippery electric guitars which reference Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock with a bit more technical dexterity.
Grand Lake won’t be fooling anyone with Blood Sea Dream. This is an album clearly “of its time”, built from the era’s most obvious references. There’s also absolutely nothing wrong with that. Some bands innovate; some elaborate. As a front-to-back listening experience, Blood Sea Dream plays like a late night infomercial collection: Indie Rock: A Trip Back!
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