Sydney, Australia imports The Griswolds have definitely been creating some buzz around them before the release of their debut album Be Impressive. Not only has their single “Beware the Dog” been on heavy rotation on a handful of larger-named stations (LA’s KROQ, San Francisco’s Live105, and Las Vegas’ KXTE), but they’ve even caught the ears of Billboard, Hype Machine, and Spotify (in which they were named the Emerge Artist). Be Impressive absolutely meets the hype and rivals that of the anticipation of Foster the People‘s 2011 debut album Torches.
The energetic, harmonious, Fitz & the Tantrums-eque “16 Years” starts off Be Impressive and leads into the album’s funky-with-a-deep-message single “Beware the Dog”. The band focuses on keeping the fun weaved throughout songs like “America” (which ironically sounds like it could be every American young adult’s party song), “Aurora Borealis” (a sing-songy American Authors-ish track), and the album’s title track (a play on the old-time cheer ‘Be Aggressive’). The incorporation of electric keyboards is very much prominent throughout the entire album (especially “If You Wanna Stay”), but they play around with other retro electric guitars (“Down and Out”) and sultry old-school soul (“Live This Nightmare”). Be Impressive ends with the epitome of a hipster bonfire anthem in “Not Ready Anymore”.
With “Beware the Dog” having the strong storyline of coping with losing someone to heavy drug use hidden underneath its utterly indie-pop exterior, it’s no surprise that Be Impressive produced other lyrically enticing songs. Not saying that the entire album isn’t filled with great lyrics, but there’s just a little extra something that shines through “Thread The Needle” and “Right On Track”.
“Right On Track” delves into that never-ending battle of choosing success over a relationship in a peppy-yet-dark Chvrches/The 1975 instrumented song. Its opening line “I can’t believe I never made it past my mark” as well as verses like “I never listened to my head before my heart” and “if it’s all the same/I’d love to think I’m not quite the answer” very much show that Whitehall is really working his ass off to get his shit together. He also discusses the stress that comes with balancing a career and a love life in the chorus (mainly through “this is coming between us/and I know you wanted to leave…”). Morale of the story: sometimes it’s perfectly fine if you have to choose yourself over someone else for the sake of following your dreams.
“Thread the Needle” is a raw, emotional track filled with gloomy violins, echoing drums, and haunting vocals. Whitehall takes a trip down memory lane to the days of smoking cigarettes after school and how he was always “…the most impulsive one.” This might be a continuation of “Beware the Dog”, in which it can easily be viewed as the direct aftermath of the loss. It’s certainly one of the more melancholy tracks on Be Impressive, but it’s a beautiful example of how everyone handles grief in different ways.
The Griswolds’ debut album is the perfect first step into the indie rock scene for them. While it has obvious common musical elements that are apparent in the more radio-friendly indie tunes all over the airwaves, each track can easily hold its own. Be Impressive is a great addition to anyone’s international indie rock collection and makes listeners wonder how much more they can grow in a future sophomore album. Overall, The Griswolds are here to stay and this album clearly solidifies a strong music career for them.