Friday night at Johnny Brenda’s, the Philadelphia-based electro tribe Grandchildren celebrated the release of their new album, Golden Age, which cloaked in green lasers and thick fog. They take the party to Brooklyn next week and, on May 25, reunite in Baltimore with Man Man, with whom they toured in 2011 and whose drummer, Chris Powell, produced Golden Age, alongside Bill Moriarty (Dr. Dog).
The artful psych/pop group came together at the storied Danger Danger house in West Philly, where they all lived at one point or another, making music and memories. Having first formed in 2005 around frontman Aleks Martray, Roman Salcic, Russell Brodie and Tristan Palazzolo, the Grandchildren lineup grew to include Adam Katz and John Vogel, and together, they achieve a thick pop-orchestral sound, not too far from Animal Collective or a tamer, more restrained Of Montreal. Grandchildren concern themselves with pushing their instruments, until their individual sounds are completely indecipherable. It’s more about letting the carefully layered sounds breathe, while constantly evolving to do more with less.
“Sunrise” opens Golden Age with a morning stretch of warming ooh’s and vibraphone tappings, then synthy swirls surrounded by a slow-building thunder. A dense echo of ambient falsetto pours in, the fuzzy guitars awaken, ready to fill your ears with mysterious instrumentation for eight more smartly produced songs. On the LP’s standout cut, “No Way Out,” the bass lolls around while the synth strolls in, and a trumpeted explosion leads to a hypnotizing tale about love as a trap. A reverbed acoustic guitar slides you into the next track, “Where’s the Knife,” and soon you’re on a ride through densely packed vocal harmonies, booming percussive sounds and twisty guitars, with a lyrical reminder that it can be a cold, dark world, and you might need something sharp.
Grandchildren is great at writing haunting yet still-sunny pop songs that hide the occasionally apocalyptic viewpoint beneath their sprawl. But mentions of destruction and death emerge with a smile, almost as a reminder that, yes, this is what we have to deal with as humans. And we got this.