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Grandaddy, Sumday

Mark my words, it’s already been a good year for smartpop. Between the New Pornographers and Fountains of Wayne – now this summery disc from Grandaddy – canny popgeeks have had plenty of opportunity to taste the pleasures of hooks & harmonies, strummed guitars & rockin’ midtempos, subtle keybs & succinct wordplay.
Grandaddy’s newest, Sumday (V2 Records), takes the band’s long-standing homegrown cosmic tunery and puts it to the service of its most solid collection of pop cuts to date. If Thomas Pynchon were writing “Entropy” today, I bet he would’ve had Grandaddy music playing in that story’s party background. The disc’s awash with jaunty cuts about paralysis and personal decay: just the right soundtrack for considering the inevitable heat death of the universe as you lounge and sip ice tea in your back yard. . .
Sumday is a melancholy and inexorably melodic album. “Now It’s On,” the album’s first single, opens things on an up note: a low-key call to arms about steppin’ outside and flippin’ on the porch light (“Once it’s on, you never want to turn it off anymore.”) From there, frail-voiced songster Jason Lytle continues to contrast enduring nature (“Her drag and click had never yielded anything as perfect as a dragonfly.”) with the more ephemeral technological works of humanity. You’d think it’d get preachy in a nattering “Listen to the Flower Children” way, but Grandaddy has too much pop smarts for that. In their deliberate lo-fi way, they recognize both the allures and traps of technology – and are sharp enough to convey ’em both.
Thus, in “I’m On Standby,” the narrator considers his personal stasis and promise of getting better (“According to the work order that you signed/I’ll be down for some time.”), while “The Group Who Couldn’t Say” presents a collection of shrewd “unit movers” who are temporarily bedazzled by a beautiful summer day. “The Go In The Go-For-It” tells of a salesman who’s lost his drive (with its aaah-ing harmonies and tale of struggling white collar life, it wouldn’t sound of place on Fountain of Wayne’s Welcome Insterstate Managers), while “Yeah Is What We Had” utilizes the soaring orchestral sound of Buffalo Springfield’s “Expecting To Fly” (Lytle’s vocal kinship to Neil Young is put to especial good use here) to contextualize a busted relationship.
Elsewhere, Lytle aims his laconic storytelling talents to describes the “Saddest Vacant Lot In The World” (“He’s so drunk he’s passed out in a Datsun.”) and a “Penny Lane” take on small-town life (“Stray Dog And The Chocolate Shake”), the former with a mournful waltz tempo, the latter with a cheesy synth line that couldve come out of Funkytown. As a lyricist, Lytle can be concisely empathic – and not just when he’s singing about himself either.
“If my old life is done, then what have I become?” the singer asks in Sumday‘s organ-textured final track. Couldn’t tell ya completely, Jason, but I will say this: you’ve turned into a darn fine songwriter. . .

About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.

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