Grandaddy may sound trendy, but they started doing this long before it was cool.
After a decade, Jason Lytle returns with the band that started it all. Grandaddy last graced us with an album in 2006, and Lytle spent the meantime on his solo work, but clearly there was more that needed to be said. Arguably the closest thing we had to hipster music before the descriptor existed, Grandaddy made unique, mainly inaccessible pop music in an era when more mainstream listeners were still paying attention to Seattle grunge or the rise of boy bands. That said, the albums were artistic gems. The lyrics were delivered through Lytle’s unmistakably gentle falsetto. He had a way of sounding like he was suggesting the themes more than insisting upon them.
Clearly the hiatus has had a positive effect, and if you were a fan of the band a decade ago you’re going to be very excited at how they’ve managed to perfect their original sound. There is absolutely no compromise here. This could be an album that was written and recorded 10 years ago in that it sounds like a high-production-value continuation of their earlier career. If they’re not careful though, they might even start appealing to the mainstream.
“Evermore” flies uncomfortably close to the Sun, beginning with an ‘80s new-wave synth—exactly the sort of thing that many would call a “fresh sound” were it coming from a neon-drenched synthwave band. It’s an obvious first single as one of the most appealing and repeatable tracks on the record. Things get a little weirder on “Chek Injin,” parts of which sound like the most rocked-out thing we’ve heard from the band in their entire catalog. While the guitars fuzz sweetly, the speed of the track drops from punk speed riffs in and out of time while Lytle repeats “Please keep going” over and over again on the close.
Similarly, “I Don’t Wanna Live Here Anymore” shows a grasp of the level of fantastic pop potential that the band displayed on singles like “I’m on Standby” and the incredibly underrated “The Warming Sun.” The same chops grace “That’s What You Get for Gettin’ Outta Bed”—an acoustic ballad that implores the listener simply to live each day for the sole reason that it may involve heartwarming interactions with your friends. What’s not to love? If that’s not enough, “Songbird Son” is playfully decorated with the sci-fi atmospherics the band seems to love to drop sporadically throughout songs that would otherwise be taken more seriously than they should.
In a sense, the previous albums were collections of experiments that, much like TV on the Radio’s work, infrequently result in solid gold. Last Place seems to take all those lessons learned and dramatically increases the ratio of potentially great singles. The Independent once called Grandaddy’s The Sophtware Slump “easily the equal of OK Computer.” It’s an understandable comparison and very generous words considering the relative amount of critical acclaim Radiohead was getting at the time. Last Place has perfected what began on The Sophtware Slump. With this new album, Grandaddy may sound trendy, but they started doing this long before it was cool.