When Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth, a.k.a. Let’s Eat Grandma, first broke into the industry as teenagers, they were keen to emphasise their similarities. With curly brown hair dangling over their keyboards, limp arms swaying in tandem, they could even pass for twins.
That added to the playful menace of their debut, I, Gemini, underlining the haunted fairground sound with a memorable visual. But it also allowed them to support each other through an intense period of media scrutiny. The pair had been best friends since toddler age, and now they could find comfort in the other’s shadow, through TV appearances and festival shows.
Six years on from their debut, and four years since their masterful alt-pop record I’m All Ears, the pair find themselves drifting apart. Two Ribbons is punctuated by a realisation that their relationship has been irreparably changed by the passage of time, by grief, and by the nature of growing older.
On ‘Happy New Year’, they reminisce about making an igloo in the park and getting bubble baths in their swimsuits as kids, fully aware they can’t return to that time. “If we’d have been together we’d be breaking up,” Hollingworth sings in a particularly devastating moment. On the meditative title track, Walton sings “I can only be your best friend”, knowing that this isn’t enough to fix life’s more painful moments.
For all its knotted and emotional subject matter, Two Ribbons also manages to be the pair’s most focused and accessible pop statement yet. Its tight first half is full of bright synth pop that’s lovingly written and performed, with a timeless quality that’s apt for such an adventurous band.
The duo also give each other space to write as individuals. Walton documents falling for a woman on ‘Hall of Mirrors’, on the record’s most upbeat moment. Hollingsworth writes honestly and powerfully about the recent loss of her boyfriend, who died at the age of 22. She delivers one of her best vocal performances to date on ‘Strange Conversations’, backed by grand sweeps of orchestration and a steady guitar thumb. And even then, Walton is close beside her to support.
There are many albums about breakups and romantic love, but it’s rare to find an album that captures the feeling of drifting friendships. It’s a relatable and mature step forward for one of Britain’s best bands.
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