Two Ribbons is a project that opens up new possibilities for Let’s Eat Grandma, not yet perfected but still showcasing smart lyricism and musicality.
Let’s Eat Grandma have thus far been most loudly discussed in terms of their youthfulness, the British synth pop duo’s 2016 debut I, Gemini earning them acclaim and scrutiny when Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth were still 16 and 17. Featuring arrangements of songs written even earlier in Walton and Hollingsworth’s adolescence with unfortunate titles like “Eat Shiitake Mushrooms,” I, Gemini prompted as much critical condescension as it did hype, a surprisingly contentious response (or not) that in turn inspired much of their follow up, I’m All Ears. Higher profile and more refined than the first album, Ears enlisted very in-demand electronic producer David Wrench (immediately prior to him working on David Byrne’s American Utopia) and dearly departed SOPHIE to restyle the Let’s Eat Grandma aesthetic, prioritizing bombast and bright pop melodies anchored by arch, knowing songwriting that slyly undermines the skeptics. A satisfying saga so far, there’s good reason to be curious about Let’s Eat Grandma’s third album, Two Ribbons, which reunites Walton, Hollingsworth, and Wrench for a project that opens up some new possibilities for this band and takes steps to put them at a remove from the feedback loop that linked I, Gemini and I’m All Ears.
A confident return if not exactly one likely to endure, Two Ribbons doesn’t over-indulge in the glossy pop extremes of Ears, mostly resigning that material to the front-loaded singles “New Years Day” and “Levitation.” Massive tracks backed by arena-ready synths, these opening numbers don’t really set a tone as much as they serve as entry points into an album that ends up more contemplative and wistful than anything else. As vaguely implied in the title, Two Ribbons is the product of Walton and Hollingsworth finding their friendship tested over the course of their last tour, necessitating that they spend their writing sessions apart and inevitably reflected in lyrical perspective. With credits apparently split evenly between the two artists (most tracks crediting both, making it hard to discern who masterminded which) and the songs sequenced tonally, the schism and resulting division of labor isn’t dramatically obvious. Yet a divide is noticeable, with Two Ribbons’ front half offering a more delirious, brash perspective complemented by electronic dance instrumentals, and the back half contrasting with a selection of singer-songwriter-type ballads and field recording interludes. The gentle, twinkling “Sunday” and Britpop-leaning “Strange Conversations,” both of which come toward the album’s conclusion, offer ruminative diversions for Let’s Eat Grandma that are surely necessary for the group’s growth, but are undoubtedly less thrilling than what they lead in with. Still exemplary of smart pop lyricism even in its more wayward moments, Two Ribbons catches this band in the midst of re-evaluation, not quite yet where they want to be.
Published as part of Album Roundup — April 2022 | Part 3.