It seems that everything that has happened lately has left us perching on the cusp of permanent change. And while music is arguably one of the more subtle forms of change, it does require both the artist and the listener to engage in some level of introspection. Nana Grizol, on first listen, sound like any other indie band with their subdued ska-like riffs and warbling vocals but they are one of the most unapologetically insightful bands around.
Their previous albums deal with themes of American life and queerness incredibly well but their fourth album South Somewhere Else hits an arguably bigger mark. It is an exploration of personal identity and more specifically their own identity within America’s violent white history.
Place is a key theme throughout their work. Hailing from Athens Georgia, their previous music has been based on small-town experiences and attitudes. “Plantation County,” however, pulls inspiration from another place entirely. This track, with its punchy vocals, examines complacency and the role of silence in violence. Despite the theme of the track, Nana Grizol doesn’t shy away from the topic and is very matter of fact, educating more so than indulging in a discussion. The title track “South Somewhere Else”, however, takes are more head-on approach.
With bouncing piano and toe-tapping rhythm, “South Somewhere Else” could easily be mistaken for an upbeat track. However, the lyrics say otherwise. Theo Hilton exclaims, “it was assumed that the South was a thing that took place somewhere else”, opening the track with a line that ties the whole track together. They play around with the idea of the South, touching on its association with race and discrimination. To them, the South seems like somewhere far away but they realize that indulging in their own whiteness doesn’t make racism any less evident, but makes racism disappear, at least for them. It is a thought-provoking song that hides its own embarrassment in an indie-pop musical haze to create a track that is a manifestation of the difficult process of self-introspection and improvement.
For many, questioning their role within our current society is awkward and uncomfortable, but Nana Grizol shows that there is nothing to be scared of. Their lyrics are straight to the point and honest, weaving their way through scrappy motifs and a booming brass band to create an album that really captures this current moment in time.