Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa Walton have spoken candidly about how the cracks in their lifelong friendship formed the basis of Two Ribbons, their new album as Let’s Eat Grandma. The pair have been close since they were small children, but while touring their second album together—2018’s I’m All Ears—they started to feel pulled in separate directions. Hollingworth, who also experienced a devastating loss when her boyfriend, musician Billy Clayton, passed away from a rare form of cancer in 2019, told The Guardian that she felt they were “fundamentally misunderstanding each other in some way.” Like the title song’s core image—of two fraying ribbons, distinct yet tied tightly together—they wrote the album’s songs separately, for the first time in their collaboration.
But despite this individual process, the result is their most cohesive project yet. They have evolved dramatically since they emerged in 2016 when they were still teenagers. Their debut, I, Gemini, was an intriguing, deliberate mishmash of grunge-y psychedelia and disarming nonsense rhymes, with their higher, softer voices leaning into each other in such a way that made them indistinguishable. On I’m All Ears, their sound took a more forceful shape through a collaboration with the producer SOPHIE, and they moved beyond oblique, nonsense lyricism towards a vivid impressionistic style.
Two Ribbons retains all of the light-hearted surreality that made their first two records so bewitching, but out of necessity, the songwriting is braver. This is not an “ordinary pain,” as Walton sings bitterly on the dramatic ballad “Insect Loop,” but a feeling of being yanked apart. Even when the album is ostensibly upbeat, there’s angst between the synth stabs; on “Levitation,” Walton sings of breaking down in the bathroom, then going out dancing to forget about her “catastrophic Saturday” in a frank, diaristic style that avoids the cliché of simple misery. On the glimmering, joyful crush song “Hall of Mirrors,” there are gloomy images that linger: shivering on the London Overground, writing secrets on bathroom walls, watching the rain in an airport boarding lounge.
The record is punctuated by similar mentions of movement, transition, and turbulent weather. Walton opens the gently rolling, new age song “Sunday” with the declaration, “We took the long way ’round the mountain” before depicting an epic journey under moonbeams and an endless sky, only to discover that she feels further away than ever from her traveling partner. On the spare, guitar-driven title track, Hollingworth delicately compares the movement of relationships in her life to the “the rains that come down in October.” Like these rains, and the fields and rivers that dominate the visual landscape of this album, there’s nothing more natural than the inevitable ebb and flow of people in and out of our lives.