When it comes to an artist’s music being featured in a commercial, that commercial can fall into one of two categories: an Apple ad, or an ad for any other service or product in the world. Who can forget the promising campaigns of the various iPod generations featuring Feist’s “1234,” Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” or The Caesars’ “Jerk It Out.” The latter two bands aren’t even actively making music anymore, but those songs will forever be remembered for their placement in those vivid 30-second ads. Why? Because that’s the first time most people heard them. It can be both a blessing and a curse, but if a band is going to sign a song over to a company for advertising, at least with Apple you know there is the possibility of a trend-setting level of exposure.
Grouplove’s “Tongue Tied” appeared in the iPod Touch “Share the Fun” commercial in the fall of 2011. The track, the second single off of the band’s 2011 debut album, Never Trust a Happy Song, fit the mold of past Apple marketing brilliance. “Tongue Tied” is fun, upbeat, hook happy and virally catchy. The song is one of those you want to play again and again; you hear it in a commercial, and you have to look up who sings it, who’s that band?
Even before the release of their sophomore LP, Spreading Rumours, Grouplove was more than a one-trick iPod pony. Fellow Never Trust a Happy Song singles “Itchin’ On A Photograph” and “Colours” were both distinctively stirring and energetic; solid tunes on an album that altogether was a good debut. However, not everyone knows those songs. I’m sure The Caesars had a couple halfway decent tunes other than “Jerk It Out” but no one outside of Sweden can name two. With their second album, Grouplove needed to take a step beyond the “Tongue Tied” shadow; Spreading Rumours is that necessary step, and it’s surprisingly more prominent than many would have expected.
“Ways to Go” is an excellent second album lead single. It immediately discloses that the Los Angeles-based five piece isn’t out to extinguish any of the fun and lively vibes that “Tongue Tied” ignited. However, at the same time, the track displays a more serious and thoughtful tone, especially lyrically as frontman Christian Zucconi sings, “Been working like a dog/ I turned all my dreams off/ I didn’t know my name/ I didn’t know my name.”
Much of Grouplove’s melodies play off of the dual singing from Zucconi and keyboardist Hannah Hooper. Neither have a particularly strong voice, but their melodic strains and rousing shouts still project a powerfulness that undeniably fits with their songs, many of which are tinted with a wide range of 90s alternative rock. The arm-swaying, prance-invoking “News To Me” and enchantingly soaring “Save The Party For Me” find the duo’s back-and-forth blending richly on two of Spreading Rumors’ standout tracks.
The chemistry is again alive on folksy rhythm romp “Sit Still” with Zucconi and Hooper coming together passionately on the unresolved chorus: “Yeah, that’s how crazy goes.” Beat-friendly “Shark Attack” stays afloat with a mixed bag of fun, expansive sounds. Even “School Boy” is a notable listen, powered behind Zucconi’s creaking lines falling prominently over the song’s spouting bridge.
Even with all the hit-ready likability found on Spreading Rumours, it doesn’t come without its share of snags. The drawn-out, soft piano opening to “I’m With You” feels a bit out of a place for a song that cha-chas vibrantly from there. As with “Borderlines and Aliens” and “Raspberry,” the tracks come off as overly saturated in their 90’s inspirations, with the channeling of Pearl Jam and The Pixies, respectively, coming in a tad thick.
All in all, Spreading Rumours jumps the jump, and to be honest, it’s a pleasant surprise. Some of the hippy happy bands out there have come and gone leaving nothing more than a one-hit wonder legacy, but Grouplove has proven they’re musically deeper than that. Spreading Rumours is a fine second album, with more well-crafted and focused tunes than the debut. It’s distinctively fun, yet still very thoughtful. It’s the perfect album for the pool party without the pool, the drive home without the car, the 4th gen iPod nano that hasn’t been synced in years.