Album Review: Grandaddy – Last Place

Surveillance audio recorder in a dried-up creek

February 28th, 2017
Kyle B. Smith
Category: Review

Now a robust twenty-five years deep in to their career, Grandaddy have re-emerged in fine form with new LP, Last Place.

Perhaps that quarter century mark is a tad misleading; for the past 10 years, the group has been dormant. During this time, Jason Lytle and co. went their separate ways.

Long considered the de facto leader of Grandaddy, Lytle moved from Modesto, California to Montana, and put out a few projects under his own name, or as part of Admiral Radley.

The other members? Who is to say. But if Last Place is a time capsule of this period of separation, it sounds like the members of Grandaddy disbanded to gnaw on the more trying experiences of life.

The album careens sort of helplessly between the depths of heartbreak and the disconcerting observations of a paranoid mind. Characters are frequently on the run, living on the roof of a big box store, or surreptitiously followed by hidden recording devices.

These sad tales are delivered via Lytle’s quivering childlike vocals. His neurotic musings are met with Grandaddy’s trademark menagerie of dull throbs, urgent Spy Hunter themes, and cinematic synths.

Occasionally there are moments of sonic levity (“Way We Won’t”) that flirt with a sense of emotional relief. But don’t be fooled. On Last Place, Grandaddy channels dark energy in the way that Nick Diamonds’ Islands does. There may be a playful veneer, but crack it with the edge of a spoon, and that darkness will come pouring out.

Take “I Don’t Wanna Live Here Anymore.” It’s vessel is a generally cheery ditty, maybe even in the spirit of Weezer’s “Buddy Holly.” But the fact of the matter is, Lytle is a wreck: “Everything is outta place, now I’m having trouble dealing, I just moved here, and I don’t wanna live here anymore.”

“The Boat is in the Barn” offers a contemporary vignette of post-relationship hell, as his yearning for a former lover is hijacked by the far more crushing thought of being totally forgotten. “I saw you sitting at a table by the water, and you were going through the photos on your phone. You looked so happy, and you need to be there all alone. Getting rid of all of me is what I figured. Delete, deleting everything that had occurred. That’s when I backed away and headed out without a word.”

If that isn’t enough, the LP ends with the killer one-two punch of “A Lost Machine,” and “Songbird Son.” The former is a pitch perfect capture of modern paranoia, and haunted by post-apocalyptic imagery. I’m not sure I can recall a more evocative first line of a song than, “Surveillance audio recorder in a dried-up creek.”

“Songbird Son” is a delicate gem, and well-situated to close out Last Place. It’s a microcosm of Grandaddy’s core elements: Lytle’s frail intonation, an acoustic guitar juxtaposed with electronic swatches of spaceship whirs, and other beeps and blips that suggest that this coda is a descendent of “Let Down.”

Last Place is due March 3 on Century Records / Columbia. For a few more days, stream it on NPR’s First Listen.

While you’re at it, pick up tickets for Grandaddy’s return to Los Angeles, Friday, May 12 at the Fonda Theater.

For more information: Grandaddy

Show Review: Angel Olsen @ The Wiltern

A commanding performance on Valentine’s Day

February 16th, 2017
Kyle B. Smith
Category: Lead Story, Review

Think back to those chalky heart-shaped candies sold in flimsy, cardboard packaging. “Be Mine” was one that always seemed to turn up, so when Angel Olsen opened her show at The Wiltern on Valentine’s Day with “Never Be Mine,” there was a hint of fatalism in the air.
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Show Review: Liz Loughrey @ The Hotel Cafe

From the moment the set started, I was enchanted

February 14th, 2017
Anthony Marks
Category: Review

Not only does Liz Loughrey have the voice of the century, she also has the vibe and the message.
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An Open Letter to Ty Segall

Re: The Teragram Ballroom on Feb 4th

February 7th, 2017
Kyle B. Smith
Category: Lead Story, Review

Ty Segall,

Where have you been all my life? Like many East siders, I loath to admit when something so ripe has passed me by. I confess. I did not know much of anything about you. But then I caught that shreddy Morning Becomes Eclectic set, and it kinda blew my hair back. Then everything started coming up Ty Segall.
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Show Review: Run the Jewels @ Shrine Auditorium

Hip hop duo plays biggest LA show to date

February 6th, 2017
Sean Kramer
Category: Lead Story, Review

When we last caught the dynamic duo known as Run the Jewels, the group was on their victory lap behind their excellent sophomore album, RTJ2. A little over a year later, El-P and Killer Mike are back at it with a new album (RTJ3) and a new Run the World tour that kicked off earlier last month, and they have somehow managed to soar to even greater heights than their already-impressive previous chapters.
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Show Review: Demrick @ The Mime

Catch him at The So-Cal Stoners Cup this Saturday!

February 2nd, 2017
Kimberly Quitzon
Category: Review

A small green light shone outside The Mime for a 420-friendly event called The Green Room, and LA rapper Demrick headlined the show to help bring fans together for an intimate smoke out sesh with aspiring DJs and hip-hop artists.
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Show Review: Great Good Fine Ok @ The Troubadour

The duo puts on a space-themed dance party

January 25th, 2017
Zein Khleif
Category: Review

Luke Moellman walked on stage in a makeshift astronaut suit: white jeans, white shoes, and a puffy white jacket with sewn-on patches. He began with a fade-in, synth heavy intro on his MalletKat and keyboard. Moellman played as his GGFO co-founder, Jon Sander, and their bandmates walked on stage one at a time. First came Danny Wolf, drummer extraordinaire, and then guitarist Carey Clayton. Sander walked on last, equipped with two fistfuls of glow-sticks, which he promptly threw into the crowd.
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Show Review: Migos @ The Novo

Star-studded special guests take the stage

January 21st, 2017
Kimberly Quitzon
Category: Review

Atlanta’s very own hip-hop trio Migos performed to a sold-out venue at The Novo on Wednesday. The group’s rappers Quavo, Takeoff, and Offset had fans lit off their number one single “Bad and Boujee” from their upcoming sophomore album Culture, releasing January 27th.
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Show Review: Islands @ Hollywood Forever Cemetery

10th anniversary show of 2006’s Return to the Sea

December 8th, 2016
Kyle B. Smith
Category: Review

Considering the cemetery setting, there was a quite a bit of festivity in the air Friday night at Hollywood Forever’s Masonic Lodge where Islands appeared to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the release of their first album, Return to the Sea. Given Islands’ birth in LA, many friendly characters in the crowd, and a “remember when?” themed slide show, there was a high school reunion feeling to the proceedings.
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Show Review: James Vincent McMorrow @ The Wiltern

Irish neo-soul at its finest

December 6th, 2016
Kyle B. Smith
Category: Review

Irish neo-soul. Cognitive dissonance? Sure, but also a reality that was validated when James Vincent McMorrow ended the US tour in support of We Move on Thursday night at The Wiltern.
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