“‘Like two ribbons, still woven although we are fraying.” One of the most accurate barometers of a true friendship is how well it stands the test of time and if it remains strong throughout battering hardships. A friendship that begun during childhood is easier to maintain in its infancy because of the likelihood that your presence is mutually maintained in the same school or same neighbourhood, whilst there’s also the lack of commitments and responsibilities elsewhere to hinder it’s strength. Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth demonstrated their unyielding telepathic bond as 15-year-olds on Let’s Eat Grandma’s wonderfully unsettling debut I Gemini (which felt like spying into a secret forbidden world that only the two inhabited) and it was forgivable to mistake them for twins, due to their identical hairstyles and outfits. However, since their follow-up album I’m All Ears in 2018, a lot has happened to Walton and Hollingworth outside of their pact, including deaths, break-ups and sexual epiphanies. The Norwich-formed duo’s third LP Two Ribbons documents the factors and how these factors have impacted upon their devotion to each other.
The record, which is a mix of Chvrches-style euphoric synth-pop with hints of U2-coloured alternative rock production and more mellow yet atmospheric acoustic moments a kin to Alanis Morisette, has a surprisingly notable change in songwriting methodology. Rather than writing together, Walton and Hollingworth have songs exclusively written by themselves. It’s as if they are sending resilient far-travelling paper airplanes through each other’s apartment windows with their feelings scribbled inside. There’s still a bond there, even if there is a physical distance forming, as Walton moved to London and Hollingworth still remains in Norwich.
Although it has a sparkling and uplifting sound, ‘Watching You Go’ is Jenny Hollingworth coming to terms with the tragic young death of her 22-year-old boyfriend and fellow musician Billy Clayton, who passed away from a rare bone cancer. The feeling of helplessness and not knowing what to do is expressed in the lines: “this rage trapped inside” and “as you’re tearing at the touch like butterflies”. Then Hollingworth became understandably distant from those close to her, including best friend Rosa Walton, but she had to tell herself not to give up, after occasionally wishing to go “back in the earth sometimes. Surrender to the sky”. Instead choosing not to stay indoors all the time and not to waste her life. The fact that pioneering pop musician SOPHIE died as well during this epoch (SOPHIE co-produced Let’s Eat Grandma’s previous album I’m All Ears and has been a major influence in the duo’s unorthodox pop decisions) makes it seem like this song could also be partly dedicated to her.
‘Hall of Mirrors’ – which features a soothing saxophone in its bridge – is Rose Walton writing about her first experiences in London. Originally feeling a sense of regretful alienation (especially being away from Hollingworth): “Raining down. Sat on the overground. I’m cold to the bone. In this lonely town”, it actually became an enlightening experience that explored her bisexuality: “And I thought of you. And there wasn’t a girl that had made me shy until I talked to you. Somewhere in the night with a spell in your eyes/ And it was all about you/ The moment in time when our shadows collided and I told the truth.”
Taking a break from the bustling synth pop is ‘Sunday’, which could imagine one escaping city life and retreating to a cabin near a lake. It has a sweet 1990s singer-songwriter-Dawson’s Creek-vibe, as Rose Walton sings about the break-up of her long term relationship. The descriptive details of walking around mountains, laying down by the water and the sun setting over their bed paints the surroundings of their peaceful idealistic companionship but one that is slowly but ominously going to fall apart. “Yeah, we can play truth or dare and you can tell me what’s going inside your head/Guess I’ve been hanging on ’cause I didn’t wanna watch it fall away.”
No matter what has happened in Rose Walton and Jenny Hollingworth’s lives separately, the best friends still wish to re-glue the bond that they once had, holding on with some childhood nostalgia (“Remember when we built that igloo out in the park?”) but with a developed sense of maturity they accept that this friendship will be different. A change that can embraced. ‘Happy New Year’ – which includes sounds of fireworks is Let’s Eat Grandma welcoming the new dawn of their friendship: “I’m okay with this. I’m thinking quite a lot about that. How I’d wanted the old us back.. It’s okay. To say what you want to say. And now we’ve grown in different ways.” A lesson for listeners that transitory evolution, whether in friendship or otherwise, isn’t something to be apprehensive about.