Reviewed by Neph Basedow, Fri., Feb. 13, 2015
Song titles such as "Boys" and "Imma Baby," plus illustrated bathroom selfie cover art remind us of Grace London's tender age, but the Austinite's debut LP Brains isn't kiddie pop. "I can't be a pessimist; I hear that happiness is good for me," she sings on "Mary Anne." "But I can't be an optimist, because a smile might look stupid on me." With creative confidence that defies her 15 years, London explores precocious themes, but with an innate, untarnished candidness and fledgling, sage-like simplicity free of superfluous fancy. "Maybe it'll get better," she continues, "but what if it gets worse instead?" All songs co-produced and written by London (most at age 13) – the only exception being her clever cover of early Beck cut "Girl Dreams" – the album's inherent purity blooms in the production hands of Brian Beattie, the local Glass Eye bassist speckling Brains with idiosyncratic quirk and making the otherwise modest title track and "Blinded by You" rousing. This complementary novice/expert balance carries throughout the disc's 36 minutes, the singer musing about Elliott Smith in the same breath as a childlike Star Wars night-light, weaving a Kate Nash-meets-(Waxahatchee's)-Katie Crutchfield air. The SXSW/ACL veteran keeping company with seasoned Daniel Johnston producer Beattie, who doubles as bassist here, further promises the young guitarist's prospective growth, boosting her as a front-runner in Austin's impending fleet of millennial musicians.