Grandaddy frontman’s second solo LP is a set of impressive depth and scale.
Chris Roberts 2012-10-05
The Grandaddy reunion shows of 2012 may have appeased those who felt the hirsute Californian cultsters never maximised their potential in harnessing Americana alt-country to neo-prog. Yet their frontman Jason Lytle is venturing ever forward and further out.
His second solo album proper, like 2009 debut Yours Truly, the Commuter, seeks to recreate landscapes and sunsets in sound, while basing its air of forlorn regret in a warm bed of melody. This is, for all the sonic twists and restless quirks, a reassuringly mournful sadcore epic.
Lytle has described the music of his all-time favourites Talk Talk as a “slow, gradual and beautiful rebellion”; and his own might be (d)evolving with similarly graceful ennui. Even if the incongruously bubbly Get Up and Go suggests “you can do it, it’s gonna be all right”, dry sarcasm is rife.
From the opening title track, which teases with a hint of film noir score before chugging into the kind of lazy staccato groove nurtured by Pavement or early Mercury Rev, the loss and longing – “you’ll never get away with this” – are implicit.
There’s a mix of computer trickery and beaten-up old equipment, over which Lytle sprays his whispered themes. The peaks, so to speak, arrive on Matterhorn and Last Problem of the Alps. The former glides into a serene chorus, Neil Young/Jonathan Donahue-recalling vocals veiling the loping build of the synths. The latter’s a more sinister, shivery, warped reading of a loner’s quasi-religious experience atop a frozen summit.
Young Saints succeeds in directing a dark pop song (“your ex-girlfriends, lost pets and dead friends / No they won’t be hanging out with you again”) through a forest of fuzzy amps and bittersweet harmonies.
Just as you think the album can’t get any more discreetly ambitious, Somewhere There’s a Someone pulls the classic trick of acting weary and nonchalant while being a heartbroken weepie the 60s Bee Gees might have penned. Then, Your Final Setting Sun somehow marries the rugged spirit of Cormac McCarthy to a cheeky synth-pop refrain.
On an album of depth and scale, Lytle is aiming to move mountains. It’s big.