Over two years since the critically acclaimed debut Waltzing Alone hit U.S. shores, Dublin-based pop/folk duo The Guggenheim Grotto is set to release its sophomore recording, Happy The Man, January 27, 2009 on new model indie label United For Opportunity. Released digitally as an iTunes exclusive in October 2008, the album has reached No. 1 on the iTunes Folk Chart. The Guggenheim Grotto will make its way stateside to support the physical release with January residencies in New York, Philadelphia and Boston, as well as national touring in the months following.
Happy The Man boasts The Guggenheim Grotto’s signature mix of timeless pop, soaring melodies and emotionally intelligent lyrics, but presents a greater maturity and a higher sense of self-consciousness from the duo. Kevin May and Mick Lynch have spent the past year exploring a range of new sounds and inspirations – working in sampling and electronic techniques along with new philosophies about life and humanity. The end product is decidedly upbeat as compared to the mellow musings of the band’s more folk debut, Waltzing Alone (UFO), and it sees TGG embrace its classic pop side in a more contemporary way.
“There’s a lyrical thread throughout the album in that many of the songs explore our habit of holding onto things – lovers, a place in time, resisting change – and all the sadness that this brings us,” said May. “We wanted to sing joyfully about sadness in the world.” Though Happy The Man points out “the everyman” as far from perfection or immune to pain, it also explores the use of art to share our humanity and create beauty from both the best and worst of times.
The record, which begins with an ironically optimistic quote from Buddha on perfection in the world, proceeds thereafter to present the imperfection in our human thoughts and emotions – from the crushing pain of a love lost to the idea that our dreams are not guaranteed fulfillment. No matter how emotionally charged a song may be, The Guggenheim Grotto still make it feel uniquely balanced rather than too saccharine or depressing. “Sunshine Makes Me High,” for example, is a California pop driving song that could be as much an ode to a day at the beach as a warning on the dangers of addiction, and “Her Beautiful Ideas” sets an ex-lover’s turmoil soaring on crescendos of bells and violins.
The Guggenheim Grotto emerged in 2005 to critical acclaim in Ireland with Waltzing Alone when the first single “Told You So” reached No. 12 on the Irish National Airplay Charts. Since, the band has found success abroad much in part to the support of David Dye at WXPN in Philadelphia, XM Radio’s “The Loft” and Nic Harcourt at KCRW in Los Angeles. Waltzing Alone eventually spent weeks at the No. 1 spot on the iTunes Folk Chart in April 2007 after the opening track “Philosophia” was chosen as iTunes Free Single of the Week. The song was also featured on the first generation iPhone as a sample song on test models in stores.
The Guggenheim Grotto’s songs have been used in major network primetime television shows including One Tree Hill and Brothers And Sisters, and the duo has met warm embraces from Paste Magazine, Boston Globe and The Washington Post amongst many others. In January 2008 the band was included on a Starbucks Hear Music sampler alongside notable Irish and U.K. artists like Amy Winehouse, Damien Rice and Corinne Bailey Rae.
Here’s what the press has been saying about The Guggenheim Grotto:
“[4 stars] their lovingly crafted sound is both completely contemporary and yet somehow timeless.” – Hotpress
“one of the past year’s most promising new acts.” – The Washington Post
“With debts to both Radiohead and the Beatles, this is modern, intelligent, lyrically potent pop, nearly the only thing overtly Irish about the Grotto is its love affair with words.” – Boston Herald
“Irish folk-pop [band] makes music so lovely, it could be hung in the Guggenheim.” – Philadelphia Daily News
“[The Guggenheim Grotto] write emotionally rich songs performed without irony or jaded modernism. Comparisons to countrymen Damien Rice and David Gray abound and rightly so, though their contemporary sound stakes its own ground.” – Nashville Scene