GRMLN comes from a long lineage of California surfer-singer-songwriters like Jack Johnson and the Beach Boys. Like his ancestors, GRMLN makes music to cruise to; music that allows you to immerse yourself in the smooth hum of your vehicle and warmth of coastal life. And in that context, his EP, Explore, does a fantastic job.
Without any declaration besides the softly lit green of its cover art, Explore manages to captivate the listener with one suggestion: “Relax Yourself (Dolphin Cry)”. This is the first track on the album, and it opens with a distant guitar hook that builds throughout the song above poppy bass and drums and dreamy vocals that you can feel more than listen to. The attraction is instantaneous. And with that, GRMLN has you cruising, and keeps you cruising throughout the 15 minute album with its smooth, poppy tracks like its first single “Coral, Depressions, and Wedding,”
Unfortunately, GRMLN does little with your attention once he has it. Although he keeps up the catchy melodies, as the album goes on, they become increasingly easy to ignore. The songs simply are missing the grandiosity; the build necessary to keep listeners enthralled with their hypnotism. In this manner, GRMLN would do well taking advice from artists similarly inclined to repetition, such as Animal Collective or Vampire Weekend.
But, luckily for GRMLN, if he is uncomfortable with the glamour of Animal Collective-type builds, Explore does demonstrate his immense talent for melancholy. The manner in which the songs, despite all the poppy, dreamy sugar remain imbued with a sense of longing is impressive. This longing is most evident in tracks such as “Live.Think.Die” or the finale “Patio”, where the music becomes lower and clearer and showcases GRMLN’s heavy, pensive voice, which is lost in the warble of music in the rest of Explore.
All in all, Explore is GRMLN’s first 15 minutes of fame. They are a testament to his ear for melody, but also a demonstration of his immaturity as a songwriter. It is up to his follow-up to prove not only his direction, but if he can produce outstanding music rather than merely likeable music. Until then, Explore is certainly worth the listen.