Admiral Radley – I Heart California
By Barry Vail
Rock and Roll and California go hand in hand. Think of all the songs and albums that praise Cali, or just the idea of it. It’s place to be saved, to get lost, to be dropped into the ocean, and to rise up repeatedly.
Admiral Radley’s I Heart California embodies the heart and joy of California Rock n’ Roll in all its sugary, gritty, sunburned glory. It’s a summer jam album that works on both sentimental and silly levels, and it is a triumph.
Jason Lytle and Aaron Burtch of Granddaddy, along with Ariana Murray and Aaron Espinoza of Earlimart, create the often hilarious and mysterious band, Admiral Radley, and one of the better albums of the summer. On it, they drop much, but not all, of the mopey shoegaze both bands excel at for a more loose and adventuresome sound and attitude. The sweetness and softness represented by stellar tracks “Lonesome Co.”, “The Thread”, and the epic closer “I Left U Cuz I Luft U” would not seem out of place on an Earlimart or a Granddaddy album; the nine other tracks differentiate I Heart California from either of the band’s two prior entities.
The title track opens and the first line gives the listener one of the best images on the record: “I heart California, iced-t in my hair, drugs fall out of diaper bags, while Midwesterners stare.”
“Ghost of Syllables” sticks out like a rock n’ roll cliché, and that is the beauty of it because the band doesn’t try to avoid it, they embrace it and it is one of the strongest tracks on the album.
“Red Curbs” uses distortion and flange to create a sonic landscape that puts one rolling down I-5 with the top down on a blazing hot summer day. And the thundering “I’m All Fucked On Beer” has an industrial feel with its floating keyboard lines and thumping bass and staccato drums, and it’s here that the humor of the band shines through.
To say the band had fun creating this love letter to California is probably an understatement. Their website is full of evidence to support this belief. Their live performances on NPR Tiny Desk Concert from SXSW and KCRW Morning Becomes Eclectic show the band enjoying themselves and the material like an inside joke.