Grand Archives Out February 19th

The viral nature of the internet, with mp3s floating around freely, whether on PR blasts or a file-sharing service, was once a topic of much debate in which, generally, two questions were posed. Does the freedom, or more appropriately, anarchy of the internet limit the potential economic gains of the music industry? Or, is awareness through downloads more valuable in the long-run? Well, the viral nature of the internet creates a marketplace that cannot be fully contained, but must be fully embraced by record labels and artists for them to survive, a conclusion that is now being accepted by many industry heads. Although such a debate is somewhat insignificant these days as the industry has become aware of the fact that the internet is the best way to spread music, particularly within the independent music community, the debate had much relevance in the early part of the decade when the power of the internet was not fully realized. And, in retrospect, smaller bands would have surely opted for awareness. Had the free-flowing mp3 internet been strong in the late ‘90s, many bands would have benefited from the awareness it brought and, possibly, survived because of it. One band in particular, Northwest melancholy-pop peddlers Carissa’s Wierd, may have been around today had their music been virally-spread over the web, rather than relying on word-of-mouth publicity. Unfortunately, Carissa's Wierd disbanded in 2003 due to undisclosed circumstances, but were definitely affected by the lack of awareness during their tenure that would have been exponentially increased by the mp3 revolution that exists today.

When I first came across the band in 2002, which began with a friend’s fluke encounter with their music, I was stunned at how profound an effect their sadness had on me. Their subdued vocals and depressing lyrics hovered over light, acoustic guitars and tear-jerking strings which brought me down as far as only Elliott Smith could bring me. Although sadness is not a desirable feeling, it is sometimes necessary on say, a rainy day or as a soundtrack to a break-up. Regardless, the fact that it evoked such a strong feeling in me was, ironically, quite inspiring. When I pursued the band on the web, I could only find a few live tracks recorded for KEXP in Seattle. The song “Die” from a 2002 in-studio performance and, thank god, their last release, i before e, was so beautifully depressing that I wanted everyone to hear it and see how affecting music can be. When I searched for more music, I came up with nothing. I bought You Should Be At Home Here, Songs About Leaving, and i before e at a few small record store in Southern California that attempted to spread the word, but that was all I could get out of the band. Their label, Sad Robot, went defunct and their tours were very limited toward the end of their career. And so, I wish that the viral nature of the internet had been rampant during their years and more people could have heard Carissa’s Wierd. It could have kept them alive.

Providentially, members of the band went on to form other acts in the mp3 age including Sub Pop darlings, Band of Horses. Mat Brooke, whom was a minor conspirator in BoH’s break-out, Everything All The Time, and the main man behind Carissa’s Wierd, had gone on hiatus to pursue less volatile ventures than music. However, talent cannot go unused and passion cannot be ignored. In a more fitting musical climate in which any artist can be heard, Brooke formed Grand Archives and, with the backing of Sub Pop, he is finally set to be heard by all.

It is no surprise that Grand Archives’ debut, The Grand Archives, is as great as Carissa’s Wierd was. Yet, Grand Archives has a sound that is incomparable to Carissa’s Weird. In fact, it is shocking to hear how different these two bands, despite having the same song-writer, sound. Generally, the music is similar to that of The Elected, having a wistful Southern California-meets-South Carolina, folk-rock sound, but incorporating some quirky rock riffs and endearing knick-knack instrumentation. Any fan of Band of Horses will love Grand Archives. On Carissa’s Wierd records, Brooke’s voice was hushed and pensive. Now, as he leaves his past behind, his voice shines, having a similar timbre to Archer Prewitt but, with all the vocal harmonies fluttering together, sounding like Simon & Garfunkel. As far as lyrics go, I think Mat might be, dare I say it, happy; or, at least, optimistic. “But hey darlin’, don’t you look fine, the dull look in your eyes, you’re terrified,” he sings in the opener, "Torn Blue Foam Couch", as a man finding beauty in a sea of despair. Throughout the album, Brooke sings of the harsh past, reflecting on the sadder times, but moving forward from them. There is still a sadness evident in these songs, but with a positive outlook. Even Jenn Ghetto, Mat Brooke’s depressing, harmonious counterpart in Carissa’s Wierd, sings with an air of optimism in the song of fleeing lovers, “Swan Matches.” In “A Setting Sun,” Brooke sums up the album’s hopefulness, singing, “We haven’t seen and we’ll never know, where the summer sleeps and the springtime goes. We only hope it’s somewhere good.”

- Caleb Moriarty for betterPropaganda

Check out Caleb's blog at

Listen to these similar artists:

Band of Horses

Beachwood Sparks

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