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Admiral Radley

I Heart California

[The Ship; 2010]

By ; August 4, 2010 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

It’s an oversimplification (and probably lazy journalism) to say Admiral Radley is just a Grandaddy reunion, but when listening to debut album I Heart California it’s not hard to see it that way. Many of the songs here, often the best ones, are punctuated by the arpeggiated keyboards that decorated much of Grandaddy’s work. This, along with Jason Lytle’s fragile and mopey vocals, practically begs for the comparison. However, while Grandaddy always had a distinct aura of defeatism on their records, Admiral Radley occasionally sounds like they’re having fun.

As with his other work, the inspiration behind many of Lytle’s songs is his experiences growing up in Modesto. Even ex-daddy drummer Aaron Burtch is brought along for the ride. What becomes evident after repeated listens is how much the other members of Admiral Radley contribute. Ariana Murray and Aaron Espinoza, originally from Earlimart, are due a large share of the credit for the atmosphere and mood of the album. They balance out the gloomier side of the band (Lytle), and also contribute some great vocals.

Still, Jason Lytle is the head of the operation, and what made Lytle such a great songwriter was his ability to capture his culture from the perspective of a cynic. Even ten years after what many perceive to be his artistic peak, he’s still one of the best at juxtaposing images to describe what he sees (“Fake tits and the symphony”). In the much the same fashion, I Heart California places the delicate piano ballads right up against the snotty garage rockers. It’s fitting conceptually, and in practice gives the tracks space to stand out.

Just as the Who simultaneously celebrated and mocked 1960s’ pirate radio on The Who Sell Out, Lytle is loving and laughing at his life in California. Nearly the entire album focuses on images directly lifted from the memories of Lytle’s adolescent years with the closer, “I Left You Cuz I Luft U,” serving as his breakup note to the Golden State (Lytle now resides in Montana). That said the album isn’t purely autobiographical even though California is the focus of the songs. And the songs are by and large fantastic. Slower tracks like “Ghosts Of Syllables” and “Lonesome Co.” are thoughtfully constructed and filled with heartache. The album does disappoint on some of the upbeat songs, however. “I’m All Fucked On Beer” wears quickly and lasts about two minutes too long. Another rocker, “Sunburn Kids,” never really goes anywhere. While these weigh the album down, they represent only part of an otherwise solid debut from this well-pedigreed band.


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