Empire, GRMLN’s debut LP, leaves little to be desired. Reminiscent of the Beach Boys and Oxford Collapse, this lo-fi, summery garage album has shown that southern Californian GRMLN, known by day as Yoodoo Park, has made staggering bounds since last year’s release of GRMLN’s EP, Explore—but he definitely hasn’t reached his peak. Empire is a surprisingly effortless but familiar collection of nine tracks, all dreamily fuzzed-out punk with a heavy lacquer of teenage lovelorn pop.
“Teenage Rhythm” is the album’s opening track—and it’s awesome. The guitar serves as a steady base, but the bursts of percussion paired with breezy, excited vocals are what make it so memorable. This is one of the only songs on the album that isn’t a bit disappointingly predictable. Though all the tracks are pleasant tributes to juvenile grunge, none of them are groundbreaking. The only ones that display a truly unique sound to GRMLN are “Teenage Rhythm” and “Cheer Up.” The others follow similar rhythmic patterns and even vocal arrangements as almost every other aspiring summer garage band—taking a bit of Wavves’ sunny punk vibe, diluting its pompousness, and adding some angst.
Regardless of the album being predictable, it’s still deserving of a listen—and once you give it one, you won’t be able to stop playing it. “Do You Know How It Feels?” and single “Hand Pistol” are tracks that will keep you jamming all summer, with lyrics fitting to be included in the soundtrack of a classic youthful summer fling. “Dear Fear” is stripped of all GRMLN’s thrash. It is the rawest and most sincere of all Empire’s tracks. This sort of earnestness paired with a more refined and mature musical goal is what will help Yoodoo Park reach his full potential.
Keep an eye on GRMLN. This artist is going to be big. Empire is a promising debut album, and once skills are refined and a specific direction is decided upon, its maker is going to be well on his way to being one of the cornerstones of American pop-punk.