Grouplove's fourth album, 2020's Healer, starts with a blast of a song called "Deleter." Grounded by a maniacal piano riff and a dissonant screech of guitars, it's a punk-infused tirade about wishing you could erase certain memories à la Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It's an incredibly catchy song, and it perfectly sets the tone for what is to come. Healer follows 2016's Big Mess and finds the band in an exuberant headspace, searching for moments of cathartic release after an extended period of difficulty. Prior to Big Mess, lead singers Christian Zucconi and Hannah Hooper gave birth to their first child, and then, on the heels of the album's release, came the tumultuous 2016 Presidential election. By 2017, they had also parted ways with founding drummer Ryan Rabin. All of this emotional upheaval informs Healer, but never weighs it down. Where Big Mess balanced sophisticated production with slick Katy Perry-esque pop hooks, Healer is more direct as the band tap into their '90s alt-rock idols like Flaming Lips, Pixies, and Weezer. To achieve this sound, the group recorded at El Paso, Texas’ Sonic Ranch with producer Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio, and at Larrabee Studios in Los Angeles with Malay (aka James Ryan Ho) who has worked with Frank Ocean, Zayn, and Lorde. And while Grouplove are certainly advocating for grassroots social change on Healer, it never gets too heavy or dark. On "Inside Out" they argue the adage that real change comes from within, a sentiment given added punch by a bass-heavy, post-punk groove. Similarly, "The Great Unknown" is a song about the golden possibilities of humanity, set to a chugging, midtempo riff that's equal parts the Cars and Weezer. Part of the joy of the album is hearing the group's ability to filter some of their concerns over issues like right-wing populism and global ecological disasters through a positive-minded and often surrealistic prism. On "Hail to the Queen," Zucconi sings "What if you had the notion/We'd all get swallowed in ocean/I'd tell you what I'd do if I were you/I'd summon all the whales/And ride upon their tails/Together we could sail under the moon." With Healer, Grouplove have made an album about how we need to support each other during tough times, and never give up on the hope for a fantastical future. As they sing on "Hail to the Queen," "Don't Need to be stressed out, or left out, we're with you."
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar