Liz Harris is an ambient/dream pop/lo-fi musician haling from Oregon (USA) who performs under multiple names, her most notable being alias being ‘Grouper’. As of this writing Liz Harris has released 10 albums and multiple singles.
Grouper is one of my favourite and most beloved artists currently out there. Her music is often a simple mix of dreamy, reverb drenched vocals, guitars and keyboards. Despite her often minimal set up, she has an ability to make some of the most ethereal, haunting, relaxing and often moving music I have ever heard.
Below is my top 10 grouper songs from the top of my head.
10. Vital (The Man Who Died In His Boat, 2008)
Liz chants the word ‘Vital’ over hypnotic guitars with hypnotising effect.
9. ‘Alien Observer‘ (Alien Observer, 2011)
Liz sings the lines ‘Wondering how we’re every meant to hide, Going to take a spaceship, Fly back to the stars, Alien observer in a world that isn’t mine’ over a simple piano melody, the result will take you to another place.
8. ‘Stuck‘ (Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill, 2008)
When I googled the lyrics to this song I was astonished to see only two lines appear. This goes to show that with the right songwriting approach and the use of melody, two lines can create an entire song without the listener ever noticing.
‘Stuck in a sad song
I was stuck in a sad song’
7. Vapour Trails (Alien Observer, 2011)
A simple and distant guitar and piano gradually build, taking your mind into another world.
6. Poison Tree (Grouper/Inca Ore, 2007)
Probably the most underrated track on this list.
The split E.P with Inca Ore marked a small turning point in Grouper’s direction. In my opinion from this release onward Liz’s voice started to be less distant and more decipherable and her songs started to become more accessible, whatever that means.
‘Turn me into a poison tree
Make my shadow go away
Make my branches strong and hard
Make my leaves flower and spread
Make me feel like something powerful is growing deep inside of me’
5. Cloud in Places (The Man Who Died In His Boat, 2013)
This song feels like ‘Heavy Water/Id Rather Be Sleeping”s cousin, both pieces are very similar and both are achingly beautiful.
4. Clearing (Ruins 2014)
For her album ‘Ruins’ Liz ditched her reverb drenched guitars and keyboards in favour of two things, her voice and a piano.
‘Ruins’ is Grouper laid bare. Her voice is quiet and indecipherable at points and you even hear a microwave beep loudly in the background during one of the songs.
This incredibly lo-fi approach generates some fantastic pieces, this is arguably Grouper’s most melancholic poignant album.
The track ‘Clearing’ is my personal highlight, containing some of Liz’s most relatable lyrics.
3. Living Room (The Man Who Died In His Boat, 2013)
‘Living Room‘ is an interesting contrast to ‘Clearing‘, both tracks are simple and minimal.
Living Room contains only Liz’s voice and a single guitar. This track has one of Grouper’s most memorable lines.
‘I’m looking for the place the spirit meets the skin
Can’t figure out why that place feels so hard to be in’
2. Headache (Paradise Valley, 2016)
‘Headache’ is the ultimate Grouper track, If i were to introduce Liz Harris’s music to anyone I would use this track.
Stunningly beautiful droning guitars and vocal parts absorb the listener. The lyrics are tricky to decipher but that is not important, the song becomes even more special when you discover the lyrics yourself.
This would be number one on my list, but it was not the track that started my love affair with this band.
1. Heavy Water/Id Rather Be Sleeping (Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill, 2008)
THIS is the ultimate grouper track for me and it was the first track I heard by Liz Harris. A friend introduced me to this track, after sitting and listening to it she turned and said to me ‘how cool was that?’.
I responded ‘yeah that was nice’, not thinking much of it. Without knowing it, the chorus hook was now embedded into my mind forever.
I don’t think I have gone more than a week without hearing it since.