Grand Archives - Keep in Mind Frankenstein (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Grand Archives

Keep in Mind Frankenstein (2009)

Sub Pop

Grand Archives formed in 2006 and wasted little time attempting to shed the skin of its key member's past acts, that being vocalist/guitarist Mat Brooke's Carissa's Wierd and Band of Horses. The self-titled debut that would materialize in early 2008 carried orchestral shades of CW and some of BOH's pretty sparkle, but Brooke and co. managed to come up with some mildly successful and more unique-sounding indie folk in the process anyway. And while The Grand Archives may have moved at a balladic pace, it exuded a certain charm that kept it afloat. The sophomore full-length, Keep in Mind Frankenstein doesn't quite seem to have such a similarly reliable crutch, and all the same, it's definitely more forgettable.

Keep in Mind Frankenstein bears a comparatively stripped-down setup at its outset, matching the beautifully crisp and classy -- albeit lyric-less -- layout. Where the self-titled record used the kitchen-sink approach to instrumentation at every turn, everything sounds a little quainter and quieter here. If The Grand Archives was the magnificent sunrise, Frankenstein is the less enchanting sunset.

The climactic hook in "Witchy Park / Tomorrow Will (Take Care of Itself)" is fine, but there are a number of ways it could be plenty more powerful, whether it be Brooke be more pressing in his delivery, the volume fuller-bodied or someone like John Congleton holding the production/engineering fort down, knowing exactly where everything should explode to make the impact it should. Because frankly, it doesn't, and the song is -- ironically -- noticeably more innoxious as a result.

The rest of Frankenstein keeps a steadily compact mindset, as did the under-40-minute self-titled; however, where the latter's pacing could be described as leisurely, one might measure Frankenstein's movement as listless. Ear-catching elements bubble up here and there, in the suddenly country twang of "Oslo Novelist," echoing harmony of "Lazy Bones" or Brooke's contrastingly pretty voice against the vaguely macabre vibe on closer "Willoughby." But everything just seems too subtle and Brooke too defanged and complacent, except for a bit of a perk-up on "Dig That Crazy Grave"; there isn't much else on the album worth checking in for.

Keep in Mind Frankenstein floats by softly enough, but it just sounds disappointingly disarmed in the process.

Silver Amongst the Gold
Oslo Novelist