Published May 13, 2015Bedheaded and sentimental, Grounders have arrived with a debut that is equal parts nostalgic impressionism and playground slide rash. Opening with pillowy synths and the repeated firing of a particularly bedazzled sound effect on "Secret Friend," Grounders trampoline listeners into their eponymous debut, and the effect is akin to a leisurely jaunt through a cloudy videogame coin haven. But those magical levels of convenience only last so long.
Compare the charming decadence of that first track to regional think piece "Bloor Street and Pressure," and you'll map a mournful appreciation for an innocence that can't be won back. The latter kicks off with a whistle blow and a collage of chirping and impatient clapping that gives way to a chugging sprint through a much busier soundscape in which — perhaps not coincidentally — those sparkly effects are fewer and farther between. It unravels in an exhausted sputtering and coughing of the synthetic components that propel it, making a compelling nod to the psychological hurdle that is Toronto's practically unavoidable commercial thoroughfare and its exhausting rat race. On "Vyvanese," a track named after a Big Pharma drug that's intended for medicating distractions but also abused in search of entirely new ones, the band strips the childhood dream of staying up late watching TV of all its enchantment, exposing the practice for its sad dullness.
If not a subtle takedown of modern maturation, Grounders smartly summons the blissful universe it idealizes in its haze of plucked guitars, cushiony synths and disarming left field effects, creating worlds in which these conflicts can be engaged with on a casual level. It's a record that lacks pretension and offers hope to its disenchanted antagonist — and by extension, all the listeners it risks bumming out — by approving of those with their heads in the sky, bumping through life wondering what happened, where things are going and if things are ever going to mellow out again. What more could you expect from a band that shares its name with a blindfolded playground game? (Nevado)