As a college radio host in the Pacific Northwest, my musical tastes skew towards the obscure—not as obscure as some, but full of tiny local bands who have released only a handful of albums. One such local band is Surrey’s Good for Grapes, an indie-folk septet who have taken home several local awards including the Rogers urMusic Battle of the Bands and, most recently, the 2014 Peak Performance Project. There’s a very good reason for their rising success: Good for Grapes’ debut release, Man on the Page, was one of the best albums of 2013.
On the surface, Good for Grapes’ musical style falls into the same category as The Lumineers and the Fleet Foxes: warm guitar-driven folk helmed by an earnest, talented vocalist and backed up with lots of drums, banjos, and harmonicas. While I quickly became bored by the Fleet Foxes’ navel-gazing style, Good for Grapes maintains a truly incredible energy throughout Man on the Page, and backs it up with jaw-dropping songwriting skills and composition. Whether it’s the low-key “Hallelujah Ghost” or the danceable “Little Carmichael”, Good for Grapes always keeps a smile on your face.
Man on the Page begins with a unhurried, gentle pace, with tracks like “London Fog” and “In Vino Veritas”, but part of what makes Man on the Page so enjoyable is how it swells and recedes in energy—like with “Among the Trees”, midway through the album. While it starts out as a demure folk song in the vein of Mumford and Sons, the chorus takes a turn into raucous drinking song territory, and it finishes with a big noisy buildup that resolves in “A Sequel”—a foot-stomping, hand-clapping cacophony which starts out strong and never stops. The back half of the album is pretty much perfect; there isn’t a single song that isn’t fabulous in its own way. “Eskimos” demonstrates the band’s sense of restraint, while “Skipping Stone” will have you dancing along to its infectious, optimistic beat. “A Worthier Man”, my favourite song on the album, builds to a strings-heavy climax that will have you reaching for the repeat button.
It’d be easy calling Good for Grapes a Fleet Foxes clone; songs like “Eskimos” and “Renminbi Tips” certainly sound like songs from Bedouin Dress. However, the Fleet Foxes don’t have the incredible stomping energy brimming underneath their music, nor the sense of magic that Good for Grapes brings so effortlessly. Albums like Man on the Page reveal just how difficult it is to describe music in a non-aural form; nothing I write can quite do justice to how much I love this album. This is music that you can’t help but adore; it’s energetic, powerful, and full of joy. Good for Grapes holds the listener in the palm of their hand, and I have absolute faith that they’ll become more famous as time goes on. If ever there was a band that deserved to be well-known and beloved, it’s this one.