I’m not saying it’s ever easy to tie a musician to a genre, but Griffin House exemplifies this challenge. Perhaps some of this challenge comes from the album’s journey. The music and themes change throughout Flying Upside Down, and where it ends is not where it began.
Griffin House begins Flying Upside Down with a sweet, easy-to-digest acoustic piece. It’s candy. The next track, “I Remember (It’s Happening Again)” isn’t made of the same stuff. This one is a nostalgic tale that parallels Vietnam with the Iraq war. It’s strongly political with strong folk elements; Arlo Guthrie, anyone? It eases up immediately with the next track “Let Me In,” and we’re back on the luv theme for awhile. On the song “The Guy That Says Goodbye to You is Out of His Mind” let me say, I am cognizant of sentimentality (and the grammatical error in the title), and my ear is fine-tuned to the sound of heartstrings being played. This song does just that. But guys, it’s so pretty, what can you do?
The classic rock sound of songs like “Live to be Free,” “Heart of Stone,” and title track “Flying Upside Down” are in the style of the Rolling Stones and far in style from the earlier acoustic melodies. “Flying Upside Down” is the arc of House’s story, sung like a man at his end: “Take me all the way/if you take me at all/cause I got nothing but the ground to break my fall.” Oh, the emoting! The guitar and piano, layered with Andrew Bird-style violin and whistling, make a powerful song musically as well as vocally. The last song on Flying Upside Down is a complete transformation, a spiritual answer to the woes and aches that fill the album. “Waiting For the Rain to Come Down” is an all-out Johnny Cash-style gospel song. “I’m like a child on the inside God/But guilty of the crime/Your innocence remains in me/When you strip away the grime/Devils crawl around my house and/Underneath my skin/I’m ashamed that when sin knocked/I chose, I chose to let it in” If lyrics like that don’t illicit a response, check your pulse. You might need a new heart.
Folk. Pop. Americana. Call it what you will, it’s an album you can’t help but put on repeat. Despite some overly sentimental moments, the entire project is comes off as an earnest bunch of songs. It’s not easy to pull off rock, pop and gospel in one album, but Griffin House’s Flying Upside Down is an album that makes it work.