Three years ago, Let’s Eat Grandma were hit with unimaginable tragedy. The Norwich-based experimental pop duo – comprised of childhood pals Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth – lost the latter’s boyfriend, the 22-year-old rising musician Billy Clayton, to a rare form of bone cancer.
It was, of course, understandable that they scrapped their forthcoming 2019 US tour. There had also been fractures in Walton and Hollingworth’s friendship, borne of miscommunication and a degradation in their “telepathic” bond of times past. In the years since the release of their Ivor Norvello-nominated second album ‘I’m All Ears’ (2018) and Clayton’s death, Walton moved to London, which gave the pair space to find the language and melodies with which to express themselves. The result is ‘Two Ribbons’, a mirror in part to the letters they wrote to one another as they tried to navigate new feelings about love, loss and friendship.
What’s sonically striking about ‘Two Ribbons’ is its accessibility compared to the peculiar, juvenile explorations of 2016 debut ‘I, Gemini’ and its potent, PC Music-influenced follow-up. Its first half largely consists of glowing synth-pop (‘Happy New Year’, ‘Hall Of Mirrors’), its second tripped-out acoustic and moving balladry (‘Sunday’, ‘Two Ribbons’). Time spent apart has certainly pulled their pop sentiments into sharper focus.
On quivering synth-pop banger ‘Levitation’, Walton details finding glimmers of hope amid a destructive, hedonistic episode. “I’m good at picking up the pieces from the bathroom floor,” she sings over precision-tooled drum machine claps, before seeing “a piece of something glittering inside the drain.” Coupled with the song’s effervescent tone, it makes for a listen full of heart and hope – and the desire to dance till you drop.
‘Strange Conversations’, a dreamy guitar-driven number that’s just one example of Let’s Eat Grandma’s improved, more mature singing, touches on seeking religious comfort amid grieving. “But even faith won’t soothe this ache tonight” highlights that there isn’t always a solution. A lack of resolution is also reflected in the lilting, glockenspiel-speckled ‘Two Ribbons’, which rhythmically teases a climax that never arrives. “I wanna find the answer, I just want to be your best friend,” they sing, before accepting that “like two ribbons” they’re “still woven, although we are fraying”.
The glorious quirks and inventiveness of Let’s Eat Grandma’s earlier work might be amiss on ‘Two Ribbons’, but its immediacy will likely win them new fans. This is the stirring sound of reinvigoration in the face of loss.
Release date: April 29
Record label: Transgressive