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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
+ Minimum Chips - Lady Grey
+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
+ The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls Together
+ The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
+ Various Artists - Musics In The Margin
+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
+ Growing - Color Wheel
+ Red Carpet - The Noise Of Red Carpet
+ The Essex Green - Cannibal Sea
+ Espers - II
+ Wilderness - Vessel States

44.1 kHz Archive

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Grandaddy are a hard band to pin down. Are they America's bearded, chubby answer to Radiohead? The Flaming Lips' slacker younger brothers? Ex-skate-punk hermits who think that the misunderstood electrofolk detour Trans is Neil Young's best album? Whatever the answer, their second album, 2000's The Sophtware Slump, was a revelatory meditation on alienation and loneliness in the Internet age, one that earned them a rabid cult following and a spot on many critics' year-end best-of lists.

Not surprisingly, expectations for their long-awaited follow-up, Sumday, are extremely high, and the buzz is already circulating that the album is a bit of a letdown. One review I read even faulted it for failing to capture the "zeitgeist" the way that The Sophtware Slump did. (Apparently making a good record is not enough these days.) While it's true that Sumday doesn't have anything as grandly ambitious as the epic "He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's the Pilot" or as eerily heartbreaking as "Jed the Humanoid," group leader Jason Lytle has succeeded in making another collection of melodic, slightly skewed songs that cut deeper with each listen.

Both lyrically and musically, Sumday is a bit of retreat from the last album's breathtaking marriage of technology and roots-music earthiness. The arrangements have been scaled back, with less of the analog-synth squiggles and treated vocals that dominated The Sophtware Slump. That's not to say that they've lost interest in creating interesting musical textures; it feels more like the experimentation has been put towards servicing the songs, rather than vice versa.

The more traditional direction could also be the result of the fact that Lytle seems to be preoccupied with such low-tech concerns as broken hearts ("The Go in the Go-For-It," "Yeah Is What We Had") and aging ("O.K. With My Decay"). Tellingly, the album's most moving moment comes from one of the most simple, straightforward songs they've yet recorded, "The Saddest Vacant Lot in All the World," an unadorned piano ballad about an alcoholic in the midst of a breakup.

Sumday's only real flaw is the creeping sense of professionalism that is starting to emerge in the band's songwriting and playing. The two songs that do revisit the lyrical territory of the last album ("The Group Who Couldn't Say" and "I'm on Standby") feel a bit too much like Grandaddy-by-numbers. Also, the first six songs amble along at the same midtempo lope, an error in sequencing that sometimes makes the album seem more pedestrian than it is. A little more noise would have gone a long ways towards breaking up what is sometimes too smooth a ride.

Is Sumday a masterpiece? No. But there are few groups or solo artists capable of creating a collection of pop songs this heartfelt without verging into clichéd AOR mush (Ryan Adams, I'm looking at you). If anything, this won't be canonized like The Sophtware Slump because it's really more fun to listen to than it is to write about (the last album's high concept being, to be blunt, a rock critic's wet dream). Still, Sumday is a fine accomplishment from one of indieland's most dependable bands. And as for who or what Grandaddy are, with Sumday they continue to stake out a sonic territory that is, finally, their own.

by Matt Helgeson

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