Album Review: Grooms - Exit Index

Roughly a decade ago, my wife and I happened to be in the car at just the right time to catch an episode of “The Local Show,” a weekly program on 89.3 The Current that focused on—believe it or not—the local music in and around the Twin Cities area. The guests on this episode of the show were Vampire Hands—a relatively new, psychedelic-leaning indie rock outfit who had just released their first full length, Virgin Dust, American Lips.

The band themselves were charming, conversational, and funny during the interviews, and the music was quirky and unnerving, but never inaccessible.

Given my need for instant gratification, or at least knowing the gratification is on its way, more than likely, after returning home, I probably headed straight for the computer and ordered a copy of the album.

Within around two or three years after that, following the release of two more full lengths and a split EP, the band imploded—if I recall, one of the members moved away, and I think overall, it’s very difficult to keep a local band, even one that was tapped to open for Wavves on a national tour, going.

The reason that I even bring this small anecdote up is that from the moment I began listening to Exit Index, the new full length from Grooms, I was instantly reminded of Vampire Hands—throughout Exit Index, the band works to blend indie rock and dream pop with heavy bits of psychedelia thrown in, creating a nervous, yet fun, give and take of tension and release.

Exit Index opens with “The Director,” a slow burning rhythmic trudge filled with creeping paranoia—building a reserved layer of tension that is never quite fully resolved before the song ends and the band switches gears with “Horoscopes,” an energetic turn powered by strong waves of dreamy synthesizers.

The band quickly dips right back into their swooning, unsettling psychedelia with the crawling, shuffling “Turn Your Body,” then they crash head first in to the bombastic, energetic “Magistrate Seeks Romance”—a vibe the explore more in the second half on the shimmering and slithering groove of “Dietrich” and the triumphant, enthusiastic “Softer Now.”

Exit Index concludes with the album’s longest track—one that tries to combine all Grooms’ aesthetics; “Thimble” finds the group creating a wistful atmosphere that is heavy on the bass line leading the way while the guitar cascades and echoes in the background, coming together in an In Rainbows-era Radiohead kind of sound.

Grooms, as a band, continue to grow. Not that I’m, like, an expert or anything. I just recently was introduced to them thanks to Alisa Rodriguez (Apollo Vermouth) who had recently repped them on social media. But in visiting their back catalog (some of which is available via their own Bandcamp page, while their earliest work is housed elsewhere) you can tell that there’s been a lot of growth since their 2009 debut. From what I sampled, the most promising of their past material is their sophomore LP, Prom—but over the course of nearly a decade, Grooms has become a more confident band, one that finds the line between pop songwriting and accessibility with a fearlessness when it comes to striking a specific tone and experimenting sonically.

Exit Index is out now as a digital download, as well as a CD and LP both from Western Vinyl.