The follow-up to 2016’s I, Gemini was always going to be closely watched. Their debut release saw Let’s Eat Grandma take their first steps into the world, establishing themselves as a brilliantly odd duo – their name, their stage presence, their songs. They were like an eerie fairytale brought to life.
At the time Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth were just 17, creating a sound somewhere between CocoRosie and Dresden Dolls. Their weird, offbeat dream world earned them both critical applause and an enthusiastic following. So two years later you’d expect more of the same, right?
Not so. I’m All Ears is a peculiar album, with quirks abound, but this time their music is wrapped in a more conscious pop sound, making it a relatively accessible and easy-going listen. Production duties fall to David Wrench (The xx, Caribou, Frank Ocean), but it’s the pairing of Faris Badwan of The Horrors with the magnificent Sophie (Charli XCX, Vince Staples) for the record’s two best tracks that really strikes gold.
Sophie’s complex pop sheen is stamped all over not just those songs but the entire album. In fact, Sophie’s own recent debut, Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides, could – and should – be filed next to this. Both are a masterclass in hyper pop to be enjoyed by adults, full of synths and harder guitars; they’re both adventurous, sophisticated, and endlessly listenable. Take Hot Pink, one of the Sophie/Badwan-produced tracks; it’s a bombastic hot mess of sounds that feels like 15 songs played together. An assault on perceptions of femininity and power, it weaponises the concept, its high pitched vocals and at times glossy club sound at odds with the lyrics they spit out: “I’m just an object of disdain to you… Bite my tongue now, that’s your cue to bring me down.” It’s brave, and brilliant. It’s Not Just Me – also given the Sophie treatment – is a subtle, beautiful love song with fluttering electro loops playing second fiddle to their interwoven vocals. The rest of the record is all over the place; there’s stomping house, Beach House-ish dream pop, grinding indie guitars and everything in between.
But no matter what the sound, there’s always a sense of drama, whether that’s the dark, driving piano of I Will Be Waiting, which builds to a crescendo before eventually submitting to something altogether more upbeat, or the song their announce their return with, Whitewater – an unsettling two-minute orchestral blast that merges their creepy sound of yore with a new, tightly constructed electro sound.
The record is strung together with a series of instrumentals that play out as snippets of experimentation. On the flip side, they dish up some monster-sized tracks – the longest, Donnie Darko, clocks in at over 11 minutes. It’s a true epic, a rambling tale that expands, contracts and runs all over the place. “Hear the buzz of the hornet fly, trapped inside of my orchid mind, I’m going batshit crazy, It’s not real life, I can’t be dialling 999, eel my skin like a clementine…” you get the idea. It might not be a likely album closing track, but there’s nothing likely about Let’s Eat Grandma. It’s a thrill to listen to their experiments, their tinkering with sounds and ideas.