Album Review: Grand Rapids, Faintheartedness

By Hugh Sundae

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Faintheartedness, the second solo work from ex-Goldenhorse guitar/vocalist/songwriter Ben King, but first under the moniker Grand Rapids, started as a limited release giveaway about a year ago. It was an experiment to test the waters, and the test came back positive.

Since then there have only been a couple of minor changes for this week's "proper" release, and just as well. It wasn't broken and certainly didn't need fixing.

King has said he never wanted to make an 80s pastiche album, and he hasn't. But he also hasn't shied away from the influence of the best bits of a decade with a big effect on, well, those of us it had a big effect on.

He seems to excel at taking the qualities that make pop music what it is, stripping out the cheese and clichés, and somehow making it unpredictable again - a skill that made his previous band so popular with both the chart and indie crowds.

The album starts with the bang of The Men On The Horses, rather than the slow-burning but peculiar brilliance of first single Singing Showers, Golden Lights, which started the original release.

But it was neither of these songs that first made me really take notice. Not afraid of a good electronic hand clap or a falsetto chorus, Never Be Without You is the most overt of the four or so 80s influenced songs, with its less-is-more lyrics and an infectious chorus of ohhhs.

There is a moment during Black River, when a key change early on completely changes the mood of the song so potently, that by the time King sings "Had I been good to you, you'd still be around," you wish you were a part of whatever heartbreak it is he's been talking about.

If Never Be Without You's lyrics are less-is-more, Friday The 13th's barely exist. Four short phrases repeated over and over before a long instrumental outro that again reveals the split personality of Grand Rapids songs.

Like all great albums, Faintheartedness is full of songs with their own identity that still make perfect sense when combined. Making time to listen to it in its entirety - made more appealing with a vinyl release on the way - brings even more rewards.

Stars: 5/5
Verdict: Is it too early to predict 2011's best-of lists?

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