Two years ago, the two teenagers who make up Let’s Eat Grandma – Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth – emerged with their debut, ‘I, Gemini’. The Norwich duo, friends since childhood, confidently described their debut in an interview with NME as “experimental sludge pop” before adding, “our creative process is very much ‘go for it.’”
The remainder of the interview sounded like the words of a band years into a career and not those of two seventeen-year-old college students who had just finished their GCSEs. Having written songs together throughout their childhood, the result with ‘I, Gemini’ was an album that NME called “one of the most unique, refreshing and downright weird albums of 2016.”
Their debut contained everything from fairytale lyrical narratives to recorder solos, brat-like deliveries and songs about radioactive mushrooms. It was certainly a bold listen, but it was also a confused one that wearied as much as it weirded. “[We want the album] to express every part of ourselves,” the duo declared, adding “you can’t do that when you’re writing a lot of songs in the same style.” Behind the chaos, there was a clear determination to do something different, even if the execution didn’t always necessarily match the aim.
Fast forward two years, and the teens have crafted ‘I’m All Ears’, an album that sounds light years ahead of their debut. Opening with glittery space-pop instrumental ‘Whitewater’, the duo add strings over shimmering synths and bursts of drones to create a bold, futuristic sound. It’s as daring as anything on their debut, but now with added cohesion and purpose.
‘Hot Pink’ follows, a fiercely original song produced by SOPHIE and The Horrors’ Faris Badwan. Whereas styles often clashed on ‘I, Gemini’ here they work together, creating fascinating tiers that grow into one revelatory whole. Glitch electronica is layered alongside sudden jolts of gritty, industrial percussion and disturbing, harsh synths – yet it still somehow retains the lightness of what is ultimately a great pop song, albeit a bit of a dark and twisted one. It constantly startles with unexpected sounds: phone chatter, smashing glass and even bursts of rave.
The album heads into more trance-like territory further on, such as on the excellent ‘Falling Into Me’ which packs in dozens of creative curves in just under four minutes. Drones, dark-pop and dance all surprise, as does its distinctly darker lyrics. ‘Cool and Collected’ is gloriously proggy and a great precursor to the excellent closer ‘Donnie Darko’, another of the album’s eerie wonders.
‘Donnie Darko’ begins as gentle synth-pop, veers into a dreamy 80’s disco before heading into psych rock territory for a good eleven minutes. Two years ago, such a mis-match of styles usually resulted in dizzying chaos for the duo, here it’s inventive and enjoyable as they capture teenage life with devastating precision. It also feels like the pinnacle of their lyrical achievements on the album as the two subvert stereotypes throughout.
There’s subtler moments on the album too, such as on the gorgeous balladry on ‘Ava’ and the slower ‘It’s Not Just Me’, another track produced by SOPHIE and Badwan. Whilst less experimental, they still retain depth and are well punctuated with a couple of brilliantly twisted instrumentals, ‘The Cat’s Pyjamas’ and ‘Missed Call (1)’. Structurally, it’s a masterstroke and one where the influence of xx collaborator David Wrench is perhaps most evident.
It’s hard to state the scope of ‘I’m All Ears‘ and how well it marries a multitude of styles into one cohesive whole. This is a thrilling, fascinating album that continually startles: it’s a bold step forward and one that feels like a glimpse into the future.