Incoming: Members of Grandaddy, Earlimart spread the Cali love with Admiral Radley -- sort of
When Modesto native and former Grandaddy leader Jason Lytle opens new project Admiral Radley with the tongue-in-cheek "I Heart California," one could easily be mistaken for believing that the artist -- who long ago relocated to Montana -- is looking back at his home state with just a hint of scorn.
Think of the cut, which also serves as the title track of the project, as a sobering summer-song antidote to Katy Perry's garden of playful decadence that is "California Gurls." Its balmy, fuzzy guitars are dotted with sparkling effects, and Lytle's vocals settle into a reassuring sway. But rather than reference the beach, Lytle croons about I-5, and there are no signs of glamor, but there are plenty of disappointed tourists.
Yet the song, said Lytle, is written with nothing but love toward the Golden State, comparing its lighthearted but well-intentioned nature to that of a comedian who mocks his or her family.
"I don’t think it’s sarcasm," Lytle said of the song, below. "You can’t expect people to know your sense of humor. You can’t expect people to know where you’re from. I was worried this would turn into an inside joke, but there’s a lot of fondness in there. That’s just the way I’m comfortable expressing myself about the things that I am fond of, with a hint of black humor."
Such a tone and sound will be familiar to those versed with the Grandaddy and Lytle catalog, where an upbeat title such as "Summer Here Kids" gave way to an anthem for a disastrous vacation. Working here with Aaron Espinoza and Ariana Murray of locals Earlimart, as well as Grandaddy drummer Aaron Burtch, Admiral Radley likewise delivers humor with honesty.
"Sunburn Kids," for instance, is call-and-response silliness, boasting keyboard notes that sound as if they have been lifted from an old-school video game. "Ghost of Syllables," meanwhile, is all grown-up heartache, striking what Espinoza described as Fleetwood Mac-inspired harmonies, and later, the Murray-fronted "The Thread," with its playful static, is nostalgic for days that may never come. Then, ensuring no one gets too comfortable, there's a spastic, electronic-laced rager about having a few too many beers on a sun-drenched day, complete with a title unfit for a family blog.
"There was never intention of this being a band," said Espinoza.
The first batch of Admiral Radley songs were recorded when Lytle and Burtch were working on what would become Grandaddy's swan song, 2006's "Just Like the Fambly Cat." The Admiral Radley project was set aside until Lytle and Burtch found the time to visit Espinoza's Eagle Rock studio last year.
"We thought we’ll do a little EP and it will be cute," Espinoza said. "Then all these years went by and we didn’t do anything with those songs. We went in to revamp them, and then we noticed we had an album’s worth of material. So we decided if we wanted to actually sell copies of this thing, we should call it something. That’s when the idea of this being a band came into play."
Admiral Radley has a pair of upcoming shows in Los Angeles, including a Thursday night stop at the Hammer Museum. The act's 11-song full-length is being self-released July 13 on Espinoza's label the Ship (the album is available digitally now), with distribution handled by Redeye. With Earlimart and Lytle each having future commitments to their own projects, no one is speculating at this point as to whether or not Admiral Radley has a long-term future.
Yet Lytle was eager to record in what he said was a pressure-less situation. "I was more prolific when I was younger," said Lytle. "I had more energy. I would just record all these silly things that I didn’t do anything with. But eventually, I started to feel the pressure of wanting the album to be special. With the last album for Grandaddy, I really had an idea of how I wanted that to sound, and it wasn’t a very good platform for just screwing around."
For those still holding out hope for a Grandaddy reunion, catching Lytle and Burtch together onstage is likely as close as one will get. Granted, few breakups are forever in rock 'n' roll, but for now, at least, Lytle is absolute.
"We’re not going to pull a Pavement," said Lytle. "We are done. We are done for good. Everyone has moved on and settled into their new deal. There’s not like one or two guys living in Squatterville constantly calling me and trying to get the band back together."
Admiral Radley performs at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, with the Happy Hollows. The concert is free, but admission is granted on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Admiral Radley will also appear at 7 p.m. July 13 at Amoeba Music, 6400 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. The concert is free.
Other notable shows this week:
Fol Chen, Tuesday at the Echo. When Pop & Hiss last asked Fol Chen frontman Samuel Bing to describe the act's new album, "Part II: The New December," this was the response that was received: "It sounds to me like a broken spaceship crashed into a pop album, which then had to be rebuilt by monsters." Sold. The Echo, 1822 Sunset Blvd. Tickets are $8.
Au Revoir Simone, Thursday at the Echoplex. Few sound more careful and precise than Brooklyn's Au Revoir Simone, a keyboard trio that's deceptively plainspoken. Textures and harmonies are cool and sedate, and increasingly psychedelic shading is used to promote reflection. The Echoplex, 1154 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles. Tickets are $12.
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Friday at the Echoplex. Staying in Echo Park this week, local eccentric Ariel Pink recently released his debut for Beggars Group/4AD, "Before Today," and it's a collection of vividly -drawn, low-fi suites of pop oddities and retro melodicism. The Echoplex, 1154 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles. Tickets are $12 in advance.
-- Todd Martens
Photo: Admiral Radley. Credit: www.admiralradley.com.