Ah, the memories…
When I was but a lad, naively beginning my foray into music journalism at my college newspaper, I was eager to take on any assignment that came my way. Well, sort of. I wasn’t in any hurry to take on the subtleties of dance in its many forms. But pop music, I was ready for. So an assignment was handed my way, to interview Jim Fairchild of Modesto indie pop group Grandaddy (in which I discovered that most of their Central Valley gigs ended in fistfights between locals). I didn’t really know who they were at the time, but they were touring with Elliott Smith, which was good enough a reason to become acquainted as any other. I started with 2000’s The Sophtware Slump, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Maybe it’s nostalgia dictating my bias toward Grandaddy, but I find it impossible not to like anything they do. Slump was a beautifully ambitious collection of tunes, while its follow-up, Sumday, was a simple, yet gorgeous work of sunny pop anthems. As of yet, no new full-length has arrived, which leaves fans like me anxious, but there is some hope in the form of a new EP (and a surprisingly long one at that) titled Excerpts from the Diary of Todd Zilla.
Due to its artful, progressive nature, much like that of The Sophtware Slump, Todd Zilla contains a wide enough scope and cohesive sound to be treated as a proper full-length. Diverting from the simpler, shorter songs on Sumday, this EP finds the band stretching out into outer space, synthesizers and acoustic guitars harmonizing in Floyd-ian ways, albeit with enough of frontman Jason Lytle’s softly charming tones to keep the band firmly grounded on Terra Firma.
There are simple moments, such as fuzzy opener “Pull The Curtains,” with Lytle’s triumphant opening lines “Pull the curtains on the day/sometimes it is the only way,” offset ever so slightly by atonal keyboard glurps. “At My Post” and “A Valley Son” stretch out into more heady psych-pop atmosphere, floating along waves of gentle ambience. “Cinderland,” likewise, propels the band into the stratosphere, fuzzy guitar chords and silly slide-whistle sounding synth driving the band’s art-rock spacecraft.
“Fuck the Valley Fudge,” aside from having an amusing title, is a lovely piano ballad in the vein of “The Saddest Vacant Lot in All The World,” a response to Modesto’s urban sprawl and its mass construction of endless grids of strip malls. “Florida” beeps and bops around with silly keyboard sounds, but Lytle’s delivery is oddly off-kilter and drunk sounding, making for one of the least satisfying moments of the EP, but the band is ultimately forgiven. One bad song doesn’t necessarily ruin the whole collection.
Though Todd Zilla is a fine release, it’s not nearly as impressive as any of the band’s proper albums. Still, Grandaddy is my band, dammit, and I’ll stick by them. Certainly a pretty good EP could only mean that a truly staggering album is just around the corner.
Dios (Malos) – Arboles
Mercury Rev – The Secret Migration
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.