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Music Review: Guggenheim Grotto – The Universe Is Laughing

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I remember the first time I heard the Guggenheim Grotto (a Dublin-based duo) at the Hotel Café in Los Angeles, CA.  I was new to the indie/alt scene, yet this was music that was a bit of a twist from those two genres and had a distinctly  different presentation. Dubbing their music “alt-folk”, one might say they are the Irish version of “Americana” or “roots” music—which is steadily growing in popularity. The music this duo puts out is beyond roots and distinctly their own. Their rhythm and melodies are silky and the lyrics are have incredible depth and meaning, so that you become more engrossed in the CD seeking to hear that hook, harmony, piano, or a certain phrasing that resonates with some emotional spot within you. The layers initially seem simple, yet are quite complex. The harmonies reflect the “folk” aspect of the music, but this is beyond folk music into something quite different—hence the “alt-folk”.

I received the Universe is Laughing quite some time ago and I became so enraptured with it, that I would play it over and over and still find that the tunes slipped through my aural fingers like fine silk. Each song seemed to lead into the next with a seamlessness that is quite rare. Guggenheim Grotto’s presentation casts a wide net that suits a variety of situations. It’s perfect for background music if you are having a conversation or dinner party. It’s also well-suited for solitude or quiet reading. I often play it while writing, and suddenly the music is over and I am left to repeat it because I am sure I missed something there. The depth of their lyrics take me on personal journeys into a shared past or future. The CD presents a collection of highly personal songs yet they seem to touch each person who hears them. The delicate and careful array of instuments seem to underscore the songs without over-reaching.

The lead tune ”Trust Me I’m a Thief” is really a bit of a conundrum yet it has a rhythm that captures your attention as suddenly it’s over and leading you into the “Map of the Human Heart” which seems to be a perfect segue to “Thief”. “Concentrate” provides a lush arrangement with seems to be a distinctive change from the 4 previous songs and is a perfect high point on the CD.

Followed by “Wisdom”, this tune picks up an interesting tone – along with a violin and other unusual instrumentation — and takes you back to the initial rhythms of the CD. I particularly like  the title track “The Universe is Laughing”, an up-tempo song (one of the few) with a great harmony about lost love. 

“Universe is Laughing” is an acoustic song with a singular ukelele instrumentation and the great harmonies of Kevin May and Mick Lynch. The CD rounds out with “Diamond” with a more somber tune but where the lyrics  provide a rich underscore of faith, meaning and self-worth. It’s more about not giving up but realizing there is more to your life than the mistakes and falls one might make but what you do with those lessons learned.

Visit the Guggenheim Grotto’s facebook page for their tour dates which include dates along the east coast to the mid-west from mid- March to the end of April. It’s defnitely worth the money to see the Guggenheim Grotto in person. The music on fhe CD is terrific. Seeing them play live is a journey to another universe!

You can find more information about Guggenheim Grotto at their
Myspace Page, website and Facebook page.

Track List
Trust Me I’m a Thief (3:57)
Map of the Human Heart (3:53)
Wings and Feathers (3:55)
Never Before (2:54)
Concentrate (5:12)
Wisdom (3:33)
Ruby Heart (3:33)
The Spiegel Song (3:26)
The Universe is Laughing (3:08)
Diamond (3:01)

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