Released: June 2014
Having enjoyed online acclaim and plenty of radio airplay in their native Australia and in the States, twee indie pop fledglings The Griswolds are ready to break the UK with their debut EP Heart of a Lion. Blending dance beats and basslines with familiar indie guitar sounds, this short but sweet collection of tunes showcases snappy, melodic pop music that sets up very nicely for the summer.
‘Tis an underappreciated art, the summer song. Capturing the social, care-free atmosphere of that period of barbecues, festivals and holidays on record requires a dash of simplicity and large helpings of pure exuberance, for what’s the point in having the sun if we can’t dance in it? Summer isn’t a time for introspective melancholia or political concerns, it’s a time for drinking, dancing and singing along to loud anthemic music, and for that The Griswolds seem tailor-made.
Soaring in with the echoing bravado of Mississippi, lead singer Christopher Whitehall bellows out an irresistible chorus accompanied by a dance-friendly backline in a song that lingers in the mind for hours, finding itself sounding like Stand By Me covered by Vampire Weekend or The Drums. The song doesn’t really go anywhere, its almost three and a half minute runtime not entirely justified, but the feel-good sensibility it conveys is more than enough to make Mississippi the EP’s standout original song. Heart of a Lion swiftly moves on to its title track, a Strokes-inspired ditty kitted out with mandatory “Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh”s, and the percussion spectacular of The Courtship of Summer Preasley that features Whitehall’s high-pitched vocals at their finest, switching from tender falsetto to emphatic wailing seamlessly.
All is well with Heart of a Lion, until the listener reaches its conclusion that arrives unexpectedly early. Rounding off the EP is its clear highlight, a remix of opening track Mississippi by Magic Man that substitutes most of the guitar work for sweeping synth sounds. It stays true to the original song whilst adding a new xx-tinged edge to it, a fitting collaboration for a band that clearly takes influence from the clinical indie bands of the ‘00s. The final track is a slick conclusion to the EP, definite sunset gazing material, but it can’t remedy the fact that an EP just isn’t enough for an act that specialises in such short, snappy sounds. The Griswolds aren’t a band intent on challenging their listeners, and that’s cool, but what they lack in substance would be best replaced with a little more volume; hopefully over the next year or so that’s what we will get.
Despite its measly twelve minute runtime, Heart of a Lion is a joyous record from a band with plenty of spark. The instruments weave in and out of each other perfectly while the vocals charge forward with finely crafted sing-along choruses that would fit into the back catalogues of plenty of modern indie acts. It’s pop music and nothing more, but why should that matter? Summer is almost upon us, it’s time to have some fun.