Just one year after the release of Grouplove’s long-awaited fourth studio album “Healer,” the five-piece has come out with a surprise fifth album, “This is This.” Without any advertising campaigns or early single releases, the band announced the album just one day before it was released, debuting it in a live stream on March 11. This is a rather rare release strategy — especially in the midst of a music lull — and the band is certainly suffering the consequences with the release slipping under the radar.
Despite the anticlimactic release, the album is quite possibly one of their best with nine incredible songs that shift seamlessly through heavy rock, electronic pop, alternative rock and indie pop. This album shows a completely different side of the band that made a splash 10 years ago with its first big hit, “Tongue Tied,” which continues to be popular even today.
The single of the album, “Deadline,” bridges the gap between the Grouplove of the past and the new angsty rock sound that this album conveys. The instrumentation and singing is ethereally upbeat despite the negative and sad nature of the lyrics, “I’ll never, never, never make it on my own,” repeated in the chorus. The song is overwhelming as it takes the listener through an emotional journey featuring occasional angry scream singing and slow sad singing mixed with chanting. Reminiscent of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” the song even features a section of nonsensical phrases sung in a chant; “I think I lost my teeth down the street/ Come marry me/ I’m gonna smash my face in the cake and celebrate.”
The only slow ballad on the album, “Oxygen Swimming,” is a perfectly existential love song with an indie pop calming nature as an acoustic guitar strums the song along. It is an ode to a lover with verses that sing about sharing memories of the past and present, and it ends with the simple but sweet sentiment, “That I love you for everything you are.” The chorus speaks to existence and the simplicity of being human as the group comes together to sing, “Lights go out but we’re still living/ We’re just oxygen swimming.” The phrase “oxygen swimming” captures life at its simplest form: an everflowing existence shared with others.
“Just What You Want” is angsty and powerful, channeled through the fantastic but loud instrumentation that includes a heavy electric guitar and a pulsing rhythmic drum. The first lyric of the song, witty and full of attitude, is quite possibly the best on the entire album: “All my life I wanted to be better/ But there’s something ‘bout my middle finger.” The song is about being rebellious, the end of the world and new beginnings featuring Dani Miller from Surfbort.
The album finishes with a five-minute masterpiece, “Shout,” which is incredibly raw and emotional, touching on mental health and violence. Some of the lyrics are intense and saddening, but the heavy rock song focuses on an important message of togetherness, acceptance and relief. One of the choruses repeats, “Shout, shout, shout/ Just let it all out,” while the other repeats, “You are not alone,” pushing an incredibly meaningful message with just a few words.
The album is a mixed bag of different genres and musical styles, but manages to capture a lot of the emotional turmoil that has occured throughout the last year. It is a version of Grouplove that the world has never seen before but will hopefully stick around in the future as the band caters to new audiences. “This is This” is a fantastic representation of modern rock showing versatility, ability to capture emotion and beautiful instrumentation.