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Album Review: grandson is ready for battle on ‘Death of an Optimist’

Grandson’s debut album has been a whole life in the making and the wait is finally over. Death of an Optimist dropped on December 4, starting a new era for Canadian-American singer Jordan Benjamin. 

The hype was real leading up to the midnight release, with grandson going live across platforms to answer questions, celebrate with fans and hold a virtual listening party right as the record hit streaming services. As longtime fans of grandson here at Atlas, we joined in on the fun as DOAO came to life.

Grandson has never been anything less than fervently vocal about his wide spectrum of social and political beliefs, letting all of that rage, skepticism and even hope bleed into this album. DOAO isn’t a concept record in a traditional sense, but it does tell a story- one that finds our protagonist struggling against the world and against his shady alter ego, X. 

X is the sellout- the schill to the big machine that runs the world, pumping half-truths and platitudes into the hearts and minds of the populace. With DOAO, grandson takes this battle to the studio as he explores ways to thwart feelings of helplessness while creating something that will make a positive impact on all who hear it. 

We won’t tease you- every song on this album should be played loud and proud and on repeat. DOAO is gritty and rough while also streamlined to the point where listeners will be able to tell that this was a labor of love (and maybe more than a little perfectionism). Grandson doesn’t hold back on his railings against a corrupt government and war on tracks like “Left Behind” and “WWIII”. Jazzy single “Dirty” will have you dancing into action as the grandkids are called to better the world around them. 

DOAO is a call to arms and presents an artist that has truly found himself while also feeling like the capturing of a fleeting moment in time- and one that can change at the drop of a hat. That’s grandson’s biggest strength- his morals and values have never wavered, but his ability to mold and shift his art keeps every track he puts out feeling bold and invigorating. 

In short, Death of an Optimist is one of 2020’s strongest offerings and very much an album that we need right now. With nearly an entire year lost to the pandemic, grandson has presented a 12-track war cry- and one that demands a live audience as soon as fans are able to pack their way into venues again.

Story and photo by Olivia Khiel