Published on BLURT – Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Grandaddy-Earlimart summit yields a combination of reverb and playful shoegaze alongside outright slapstick moments. I Heat California is out today on Aaron Espinoza’s The Ship label. Check out the video, below.
By Annamarya Scaccia
Admiral Radley’s story starts off like this: The mates in Earlimart and the now-defunct Grandaddy were friends for well over ten years. The two acts would tour together, hang out, visit each other’s respected headquarters – all those things that close friends in bands do. And one day, some of members – Jason Lytle & Aaron Burtch of Grandaddy and Aaron Espinoza & Ariana Murray of Earlimart, to be exact – decided to work on an Earlimart/Grandaddy album with various members of each band collaborating, writing and recording in a “loose, enjoyable atmosphere.”
What came out of that is Admiral Radley’s witty, jocular and warily poppy debut, I Heart California, which arrives via Espinoza’s record label, The Ship. It’s a droll and mesmeric assortment of quirky and wispy tracks that fluctuates between forlorn epistles (“Ending of Me,” “Ghosts of Syllables”), maudlin thoughts (“The Thread”), sardonic exclamations (“I’m All Fucked On Beer”), curiously jokey (“Sunburn Kids”) and the devotedly complicated (title track and opener “I Heart California”). But while I Heart California may sound like a light-hearted expedition (due in part to its more comical numbers, like “I’m All Fucked on Beer” and “Sunburn Kids”), it’s only on the surface. Go past the fuzz, the reverb and the playful shoegaze and you’ll find flawlessly executed moments of bittersweet fragility (like the tear-inducing “Lonesome Co.” or the gracefully mournful “Chingas in the West,” which opens with “Please take care of my little one / And I’ve been gone for far too long / She don’t bother anyone / So please care for me little one.”) Those are the tracks that make I Heart California truly standout as a first-time effort.
Unfortunately, though, it’s those slapstick songs that hinder the California quartet’s debut from being an absolutely perfect listen. Instead of breaking up the melancholy, they play out like random bouts of nervous laughter – unnecessary awkwardness that keeps the listener from feeling something that’s very real.