Album Review: Death Of An Optimist by grandson

Image for post
Image for post

Jordan Benjamin, or better known by his stage name, grandson, is a Canadian-American singer and songwriter based out of Toronto. While he was born in the United States, his parents moved to Canada at a young age. Leading up to this studio album, he has released several EP’s in 2018 and 2019 and started to gain momentum. Now, he has finally released his highly anticipated debut album titled Death Of An Optimist.

The first track of the album is the title track, Death Of An Optimist // Intro. The introduction opens up with a guitar lick that is repeated throughout the entirety of the track. There are some instruments that are built over it from time to time, like some string instruments and percussive rhythms, but overall the guitar seems to be the main thing in there until the end of the track. On this track, he thinks about if everything he has done so far has been for nothing and wonders if he’ll ever be forgotten because of one minor mistake.

In Over My Head is a bit more upbeat and energetic. The layers of guitars are definitely more prominent and pronounced on here. The guitars just have a simple melody during the verses, but once the chorus is there, they let loose. On this track, the artist has talked about being from a place where no one really leaves the town and they just stay there and live life as it is. However, he has bigger dreams and wants to leave this place to achieve them.

The tracks keep growing in intensity and energy, especially with Identity. You have these elements of rock and hip hop mixed into one track. During the verses, you have him in more of a rapping state. However, once the chorus takes over, you get this blaring guitars and aggressive vocals from grandson. You also get this heavier rock snippet towards the end of the track. This track is a struggle between him trying to figure out if he’s himself, or his alter ego, X.

Left Behind tones down the intensity of the album again. However, it is still light and playful. You get him whistling a simple tune at the beginning, which is brought back multiple times during the track, and then it just morphs into more of a pop rock vibe. grandson does a lot of back and forth thinking on this track, which could do with his alter ego affecting him. He talks about wanting to make a change and leaving his mark behind, but he feels like it’s too late in life for him to do that.

Dirty was another promotional single for this album. It opens up with him just giving a regular and almost lazy-like vocal delivery. You also have a running bass line. Instrumentally, there’s not too much new here, but you do have some brass instruments thrown in here which mix really well with the vocals and other electronic instruments. Again, this track talks about some things that are happening in the world right now and talks about how no one is really doing anything about the issues at hand.

The Ballad of G and X // Interlude serves as the midway point of the album and is also the shortest track on the album, just under two and a half minutes in length. Just like the introduction, there isn’t much going on instrumentally and it just serves as a continuation of the story he’s trying to portray on the album. This track points the issues between grandson and his alter ego, X. This track is the turning point between grandson to X.

We Did It!!! marks the second half of the album and it shows the darker and rougher part of the album. This track was released the Friday after the president-elect was determined and was hinted at through social media. As it has been discussed on previous tracks, there are a lot of political messages sprinkled throughout the track as well as the album. There’s also some references to the pandemic that has been going on for months.

WWIII opens up with grandson quietly singing as well as a piano part backing him up. After awhile, he starts rapping and the drum beats come in. The track keeps building up over time and you eventually get the electronic guitar with grandson’s louder and more obnoxious vocals. While I have enjoyed some of his louder and more aggressive vocals, they just don’t mix well with the varied instrumentation on this track.

Riptide starts with a calm, but soothing guitar line. Just the steadiness of this guitar riff through the track makes it a favorite of mine, especially with the buildup of other instrumentals that join in during the chorus. While it does seem like a generic pop rock track, there’s just something that keeps me coming back and revisiting this track. He also worked with Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park on this track, so I would call that a win in my book.

Pain Shopping opens up with some broken and distorted electronic notes. He sounds like some other pop artists on this track, but I can exactly pinpoint the exact artist that he sounds like right now. Other than that, based on the lyrics of this track, this has to do with addiction, but more so prescription drug addiction. Since the title of the track has to do with pain shopping, it sounds like he could be looking for pain killers which is a pretty common addiction in the United States.

Drop Dead is another track that starts out as a quiet acoustic track. While the track doesn’t stay that way, it’s nice to experience some of these quiet moments and just non-electronic instruments. I’m actually really excited that he was able to work with Travis Barker on this track, especially since I can see some similarities between this and a Travis Barker track. Despite having no hope, he just puts a sliver of optimism on this track.

The last and final track from the album is Welcome to Paradise // Outro. We have an electronic synth that brings us into the track. The good part about this track is that it definitely feels like a closer to the album and ties up all of the loose ends. While the ending of the track is a welcome to a new landscape, it’s the end of a current journey which is why it is the perfect ending to the album. This could also be the introduction of a new album in the future.

While there are a lot of high energetic tracks on this album, I do feel like some areas fall short and there are a lot of tracks that seem similar. This guy does have a bright future, but I feel like a lot of these ideas have been recycled through the album.

Overall Rating: 6/10

Favorite Tracks: In Over My Head, Identity, Riptide

Originally published at

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store