Growl debuted on the scene last year with Gallery, a six-song EP that “completely blew me away,” according to my review last summer. It’s interesting that listening to it now that I’ve been able to digest their upcoming album, No Years (release show this Saturday at Holy Mountain), Gallery sounds rather pedestrian.
Gallery‘s charm is that it sounds kind of tossed off. It’s the work of some uber-talented kids that got ahold of a four-track for a weekend and had to put their ideas down as quickly as possible. (Does that even happen any more? Or did I just make myself sound 65?) It was juvenile at times (“Girlfriend”), powerful at others (“Abbreviations”) and just downright excellent the rest (“Tell”). In short, it was everything you could ask for in a debut EP. And we ranked it criminally low on our year-end list.
No Years is exactly what this group needed for a next step. It is huge leap forward in two main areas: production and songwriting.
The production on No Years is astounding when listened to next to Gallery. Everything is crisp and shimmering, and it makes Gallery sound like a muddled mess comparatively (which is still, admittedly, part of its aforementioned charm). But when the power chords churn on the opening “Afra & Me,” they crunch with palpable power, like they could destroy anything in their path. This now sounds like those same kids got a record deal, were given the keys to a professional studio, and decided to make the next great Superchunk album.Growl - 'Yacanlu'
None of that would matter without great songs, and No Years is littered with them. “Buffalo” is my early vote for a best single, with it’s great hook, incredible use of dynamics and classic, Weezer-esque guitar solo over the outro. Album closer “Rosie” is just a staggering leap forward in songwriting maturity for Growl. The contrast between the acoustic guitar and Vampire Weekend bounce of the verses to the massively distorted straight-ahead rock of the chorus is tough to pull off, but Growl make it sound like the most organic thing in the world.
I’ve talked a lot about Sam Houdek’s guitars, and this is undoubtedly a classic guitar record, but Santiago Dietche deserves a lot of credit for his vocals. He can pull off a classic rock yell, but often opts for an understated, laid back delivery that seems to alternately complement and contrast with the music at all the right times.
The increased professionalism on No Years does mean a loss of some of that looseness and adolescent charm on Gallery. The closest they get to that is on “RGK” (which stands for something I can’t quite make out), with its thrash-y punk chorus. Yet, it’s ultimately worth the shift in direction. Growl show here that Gallery was no fluke, and that this is a band with its eyes on the prize.
Again, you can catch them at their EP release show this Saturday at Holy Mountain with The Laughing, Milezo, and Young Mammals.
– Carter Delloro