Posted on November 10th, 2009 (1:35 pm) by Mathew Plotnick

Honestly, not much sets Grand Archives apart from the pack. They haven’t broken any barriers or blown anyone away, and probably won’t. A basic indie rock band, Grand Archives has released two albums of soft rock in the past two years. The most recent, Keep in Mind Frankenstein, is nothing shocking or groundbreaking. It is, however, a relaxing piece of music, with many points where it becomes clear why this band has found its way into the grip of Sub Pop. There have been better albums of similar style released this year, but that shouldn’t keep you away from the sophomore release of Grand Archives. Although certainly not mind-blowing, Keep in Mind Frankenstein is worth a listen at least. What it lacks in any real sense of originality it makes up for with a bit of creative nuance and very impressive song writing. This album won’t end up on many end-of-year lists, but that doesn’t mean that it should slip under your radar. There’s always room for another good album, and Grand Archives has put out a solid effort.

There isn’t much to recommend the opening song on Keep in Mind Frankenstein. “Topsy’s Revenge” is a slow, mellow song, without much to the music. The singing is nice, but the song won’t really grip you. Don’t let this very simple tune convince you to switch albums, though, because “Witchy Park/Tomorrow Will (Take Care of Itself)” is a very nice follow-up track. By far the longest song on the album at six and a half minutes, this is a song with distinct personality, something every Grand Archives song could use. The song begins slowly, with simple guitar chords and some excellent singing from the whole band. As the track progresses it gets more and more interesting, peaking near the end for a wonderful listening experience. “Silver Amongst the Gold”, unfortunately, breaks what could have been a trend of seriously good songs. Instead it reminds you that on this album Grand Archives neglected to take very many risks. The song is pretty boring, though the vocals and mood of the track make it worth listening to at least once.

“Oslo Novelist” is one of the most pleasant songs on the album, and probably the best. Soothing and ambient, this is one song that creates a happy and relaxed mood, which is always appreciated. There isn’t anything terribly different about the music, with the same instruments and singing style used on every other song in place here. “Lazy Bones” is another great song, though a little different than the others. The singing on “Lazy Bones” is much more distorted, yet still collected in a very pretty fashion. The quality of the songs will drop, but not quite yet, with “Siren Echo Valley (Part 1)” being another good effort. Slow guitar picking is all the music needed for Grand Archives, who once again make sure their song is all about the singing. The duet with Mat Brooke and Sera Cahoone is a nice touch to this western evening melody.

Who doesn’t love a harmonica? No sane person wouldn’t appreciate the harmonica that opens the very lovely and romantic “Left for All the Strays”. With a melody that brought a sunset to mind, this is a song that will capture your attention simply for its emotional hold. The best songs on the album end right here, sadly enough, because “Dig That Crazy Grave” follows as a song that’s been done before so many times. There isn’t a need to be negative for long, so I’m happily going to skip ahead to “Siren Echo Valley (Part 2)”. Here we can enjoy more of the western style music that Grand Archives does quite well. No one’s singing on this track, but the piano playing a somber tune will leave you satisfied enough that the ending track, “Willoughby”, will not even warrant an ounce of attention. No complaints about that, though, as the good songs outweigh the bad on Keep in Mind Frankenstein.

I recommend that you listen to this new Grand Archives album soon, because before you know it the dozens of superb releases this year will have caught your attention and Keep in Mind Frankenstein will slip right by. Not that missing this album would be a travesty, but there isn’t any reason why a short album from a talented band isn’t worth your time. Give it a try, and, if worst comes to worst, you will declare mediocrity. I doubt that anyone will have trouble enjoying many of the songs on this album, as it’s just as good as Grand Archives’ first. Maybe the next one will be amazing, but for now we must settle for what Grand Archives has given us: good enough soft rock for killing a half hour in relaxation.

Track List:
1.“Topsy’s Revenge” (3:42)
2.“Witchy Park/Tomorrow Will (Take Care of Itself)” (6:27)
3.“Silver Amongst the Gold” (3:57)
4.“Oslo Novelist” (3:51)
5.“Lazy Bones” (2:41)
6.“Siren Echo Valley (Part 1)” (2:02)
7.“Left for All the Strays” (3:17)
8.“Dig That Crazy Grave” (4:25)
9.“Siren Echo Valley (Part 2)” (2:38)
10.“Willoughby” (2:39)

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