British teenage vocalists, multi-instrumentalists and songwriters Let’s Eat Grandma are childhood friends Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth who grew up in Norwich writing songs that, over time, have emerged into something quite magical.
They were just 17 when they released their debut album I, Gemini in 2016 – the title is a nod to their uncanny twin-likeness. Their experimental pop, bubble-gum psych rock blend of synths, saxophones, clapping-games and recorders was a marriage of magnificence and makeshift, securing them critical acclaim, sold out shows and a mesmerising performance of Deep Six Textbook on BBC Two’s Later with Jools Holland – the audience was drawn to the strange beauty of their music, to something compelling and otherworldly. It’s certainly worth checking out if you haven’t seen the duo perform- its 4 minutes and twenty seconds of original awesome talent.
I, Gemini played on the idea of the pair’s inseparability – its songs revealing two strikingly similar young voices wrapped around one another. Live shows and promotional photos frequently showed the pair in complementary outfits, their long hair intertwined. This time it’s different.
Their second album, I’m All Ears, released via Transgressive Records on 29th June is an even greater revelation than I, Gemini. It is packed with furious pop, unapologetic grandeur and orchestrations, beautiful intimate ballads as well as production from David Wrench (The XX/Frank Ocean/Caribou), SOPHIE (famed for her own material and work with Madonna, Charli XCX and Vince Staples) and Faris Badwan (The Horrors).
I’m All Ears is a portrait of Walton and Hollingworth’s lives over the past two years, as they have grown as musicians, but also as young women, finding their way through new territories, navigating friendships, romantic relationships, mental health and the ever-restless presence of technology. It draws on their love of PC Music, Frank Ocean and the record collections of their parents, along with ringtones, train journeys and vintage synths.
All three previously-released singles Hot Pink, Falling Into Me and It’s Not Just Me are all featured on the album and are utterly brilliant. The songs showcase Walton and Hollingworth’s talent of constantly changing musical pace and mood. Hot Pink is bold and brash with heavily-accented vocals and attitude. Glossly produced by SOPHIE and Faris Badwan the song shifts between innocence and fearlessness as the duo chant in the chorus: “Hot Pink/Is it mine, is it?” backed by punchy percussion and threatening bass.
Falling Into Me is a gem – the song opens with the sinister lyric “I pave the backstreet with the mist of my brain” as rolling drums, rich, organ- synth sounds and waves of warped electronica add lush layers and textures of sound to a cleverly-crafted song. It’s Not Just Me instantly appeals with sunny synth, a catchy chorus and 80s-styles drum beats which all come together to perfectly encapsulate the headiness of finding out that your crush feels the same way about you. Snakes & Ladders is strikingly psychedelic and lazy with slow regular beats of drum partnered with hazy guitars and saturated with synths. Cool and Collected at 9 minutes long, is a triumph – beautifully orchestrated and cinematic and, as with all of the tracks on this album its musical direction is unpredictable which adds an extra thrill for the listener.
The mid-way point of the album brings us to two short quirky surprises. Missed Call (1) represents a mobile ringtone – with plucky, perky orchestra strings while the other interlude song The Cat’s Pyjamas features a cat eating and purring. It’s engaging stuff and totally off the wall.
Ava is one of the album highlights (although it’s hard to just pick one) – it is simply stunning – stripped bare, just a simple piano and gorgeously sparse. The evocative line “Moonlight in the garden, grass between your toes” adds a whimsical air before the song is closed with the sound of raindrops. Monumental album closer Donnie Darko is a massive 11 minutes long, but again, when listening, it feels half the time of that. Twanging guitars add an ominous vibe and a pulsating synth gives the song a moody introduction before it infuses with dense layers of throbbing electronica. The track takes on many guises and surprises – it’s absolutely ace. The synths are woozy warm then icy cold backed by sombre cello sounds. Chimes of synth help build the song’s intensity before twinkling keyboards bring the song to a close.
I’m All Ears is the work of two confident young women, very much each their own person, with their own tastes and interests. Their lyrics, too, have matured. For this record, they were keen to move beyond what the band regard as the lyrical ‘crypticness’ of their debut, towards something more transparent, and at times vulnerable. “I think it’s a much more honest record. It’s very open,” says Jenny. “It is a lot about youth and young people and the experiences we have.” Throughout these songs there is recurrent imagery of trains and automobiles, of movement, shifting seasons and the sense of lives expanding. After all, this is a record written by two young women whose lives have changed unimaginably in the past two years, who have come to find the world lying open before them.
Mention must be made too of the beautiful artwork of the album – created by digital artist and illustrator Yanjun Cheng, who paints human emotions and humanity through portraits from a female perspective. I’m All Ears is a record that is musically exceptional, lyrically remarkable, charged with a cacophony of infectious, innovative and thrilling sounds. Let’s Eat Grandma have managed something quite unique – a move towards a “poppier” sound without compromising on their musical depth and diversity. It’s an album that cements Let’s Eat Grandma as one of the most creative and exciting bands in the world right now. And they are both still just 19 years old.
Let’s Eat Grandma will be playing live in London’s Heaven on Thursday, 27th September 2018.