Published Jan 30, 2020Groundskeeper chose a fitting name for themselves — it evokes care and maintenance, an attention to detail, a desire to have things just so. The Massachusetts four-piece's debut, the seven-track Ghost Things, is a careful construction, tastefully assembled from threads of folk, country, surf rock, jazz and pop-centered mid-2000s Brooklyn rock.
Opener "Xmas" swells with possibility, waking the record slowly with horn-like synths that crest beneath gentle vocal harmonies, while the country-indebted "School Year" speaks to that oft-explored millennial float — the modern malaise of bored students and baristas, sleeping too late, worrying about wasted time and looming bills. The whole record seems made for these moments — a gentle reminder to get up and out of bed, though quiet enough that it could soundtrack a secondary drift into sleep.
The agitated "Flight Delay" is the unruliest song here, a nettle peeking through all the lush ivy. That it comes exactly mid-record is a blessing, as it helps to disrupt the lull that Ghost Things casts. This is not exciting music — it's too familiar and soft to be that. Instead, it settles for being beautiful music, a well-executed reconfiguration of the woodsy indie rock that's been in some state of constant regurgitation for the past two decades.
The waltzing "Anymore" has a chorus lifted straight from the Grizzly Bear playbook, while "No Prince" evokes Beck at his folkiest. However, it's hard to complain about good music played well, and Groundskeeper tend to make the most of these familiar elements. The lovely "Amends" closes out the album on a high note, a ghostly breakup song that tumbles forward with a compassionate plea: "Don't forget to make amends, even though there's nothing left."
Groundskeeper are understated masters of this particular brand of music — unobtrusive, autumnal, rich with feeling but light on passion. Should they point their skills toward a sharper sound, it could open doors to somewhere more pulse quickening, though it's certainly pleasant enough to hear them as they are, drifting in through the window. (Independent)