The Grand Archives, The Grand Archives
The Grand Archives is the latest project from Mat Brooke (Band of Horses, Carissa’s Wierd). The Archives’ self-titled debut prides itself on being light-hearted and uplifting, and indeed, it’s the audio equivalent of a sunny, cloudless day. Seriously, there isn’t an unpleasant note on the whole album. This is great — if perpetual sunshine is your thing, that is.
The opener, “Torn Foam Blue Couch,” is textbook feel-good, built on steadily driving percussion and jangly guitar. Soaked with sweetness and mild melancholy, Brooke’s airy vocals are paralyzingly comforting. The bliss then cools down a bit with “Miniature Birds,” a mellow yet bouncy track. It starts with a whistled melody over harmonica, and the verses have the perfect hint of discordance. The song then ends with a couple of horn breaks, channeling Beulah at their best. Careful craftmanship continues throughout the album: see the washy guitars on “Swan Matches”; the harmonica and bells on “George Kaminski”; the dragging pedal steel in “A Setting Sun”; and the strings a bit before the halfway mark of “Sleepdriving.”
In spite of the album’s many notable high points, though, there’s something exhausting about it all; as easy as the songs are to like, they’re just as easy to get tired of. Like the Coldplay-ish reverb-y guitar riff that begins “Index Moon,” the album overall feels like a string of stuff you’ve heard already, and a lot. The only track that really catches you off-guard is the excellent “Breezy No Breezy,” an instrumental which comes across as warm and creepy, like a present-day Western. The overwhelming emotional weight of the songs, however, detracts from the genuinely solid songwriting that Brooke is clearly capable of. There’s nothing wrong with music seeming familiar, but it shouldn’t bore you, too.