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In an age where philosophized rock has taken the cyber waves by storm – most notably in the form of last year’s burst of popularity surrounding Pinegrove and perhaps a little less delicately in the work of Car Seat Headrest – it comes as a shock that Athens, Georgia’s Nana Grizol has yet to blossom in the same sphere of success since their 2008 debut. They’ve been busting out songs with lyrics that could pass for second drafts of entries in one of the most artistically, romantically, and existentially tortured personal diaries known to fans. “Perplexed” or “curious” may be more suitable descriptors than “tortured” though, as singer Theo Hilton’s processing tone never truly presents the effect of beleaguering a problem, but rather conducts a forensic study towards an answer for everything.
For example, “We make decisions that account for the worlds that we live in/We make explanations that amount to the ones we envision,” is a declaration from the song “Explained Away” so starkly sure of itself that it nearly crosses the line from poetry into journalism. Hilton offers up life’s happenings as he understands them, objectively, and leaves it to the listener to assign their associated further meaning and connotation.
Arming themselves with frequent horn sections and Los Campesinos!-esque shout-along refrains – both found present in album highlight “Tacoma Center 1600” – Nana Grizol composes tunes supposedly grandiose with a resulting minimalism. Acts with similar tools such as Beulah and Broken Social Scene often sound gigantic and magnificent due to their spare parts, however the fanfare is never lost on Grizol; they simply craft anthems that warrant a more intimate setting.
Seven years have passed since the band’s sophomore release “Ruth”, and now Ursa Minor has reared its cathartic head not a moment too soon. Much like the titular constellation serves as a navigator, Hilton and company have returned with yet another tried and true travelogue to hashing out the details of the universe when whittled down to the increments of the day-to-day interactions within, both latent and subtle.
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