Taking a step back from the upbeat fun of their first album, The Griswolds’s High Times For Low Lives blends R&B with waves of synth and funky percussion – to varying degrees of success. It’s a far cry from the bouncy indie pop of Be Impressive, which called listeners to action with its cheerleader-like title track and fun melodies. However, there’s something to be said for the intricacy with which The Griswolds layer bizarre percussion and suave vocals to create a truly artful album.
Right out of the gate, it’s apparent that The Griswolds have taken High Times For Low Lives in a different direction than expected. Role Models has an air of cockiness to it that shines through in the song’s raunchy lyrics and bold percussion. The first few songs have the same “I’ve know my purpose” type of brashness, from Birthday‘s bluesy tones to the movie soundtrack-ready Out Of My Head. After a series of flashy, upbeat tracks, Comedown – Interlude provides a palate cleanse through basic percussion overlapped with eerie vocals that fade from side to side when you wear headphones. It’s a nice break from the funkiness, because the next few songs are, frankly, all over the place in terms of sound.
The album flashes from YDLM, full of intense instrumentals and rapping, to the mellow R&B-tinted Rufio, to slow and sweet Feels So Right. It’s an almost whiplash-like feeling, getting thrown between genres like that. The songs themselves are excellent, but the album could benefit from a little reorganization here. The rest of the album continues like this – almost as though The Griswolds are dabbling in different genres and can’t decide which one they like best.
After the album hits another cleanser track, Superhero – Interlude, The Griswolds seem to finally settle on a genre. Get Into My Heart, showing off that intricate puzzle of percussion and instrumentals, is downright fascinating. Next, the title track utilizes the same overlapping technique with simpler piano and vocals to create a captivatingly ethereal song that then bursts into I Want It All, the trendy-sounding final track. This one goes back to those suave synth tones, underscored by low, thumping bass lines.
I have to admit, I was seriously conflicted while listening to this album. Yes, I dig the sound, but compared to Be Impressive – which I adored – it’s in a totally different dimension. The thing that finally tipped the scales from confused to positive, though, was the intricate layering of simple-yet-weird instruments. The album fits together like a bizarre puzzle, taking things that shouldn’t sound cool and making them a part of a masterpiece. Basically, if you’re looking for something to captivate you for the afternoon, go check out High Times For Low Lives.