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First Listen: Admiral Radley, 'I Heart California'

Grandaddy and Earlimart are two beautifully mopey bands that secretly just want to have fun. After years of releasing (usually) melancholy, inwardly looking albums, members of both groups recently decided to get together and record a whole new batch of songs that are surprisingly playful and full of hope. Sure, there are still moments of wistful heartache. But the new tracks on I Heart California, coming out July 13 under the collective band name Admiral Radley, are relatively breezy with a healthy sense of humor.

Admiral Radley features Grandaddy frontman Jason Lytle and drummer Aaron Burtch along with Ariana Murray and Aaron Espinoza of Earlimart. Longtime friends, the four say they were a natural fit in the studio. "Recording started and sure enough, it was just as expected," says Lytle. "Loose and enjoyable, sometimes even hilarious and insane. Which is great!"

I Heart California opens with the jaunty title track, a wry, tongue-in-cheek homage to the band's home state, where middle-class drug addicts dye their hair with iced tea, get boob jobs and attend the symphony, all while staying perfectly tanned year-round. "The Thread," featuring Murray on lead vocals, is the album's loveliest and most sentimental track, as it details the simple pleasures of growing old with someone.

I Heart California takes its sharpest turn on "I'm All F***ed on Beer," a hard-driving but comical rock number with fuzzy guitars and filtered vocals screamed by a misanthropic drunk. The gorgeous "I Left U Cuz I Luft U" closes the album, with Lytle on lead vocals, telling the minor-key story of a man who flees a sinking relationship in the middle of the night because his heart can't take it anymore.

Grandaddy broke up in 2006, but frontman Lytle, the band's principal songwriter, has stayed busy, with last year's beautiful solo album, Yours Truly, The Commuter, and now with Admiral Radley. Longtime fans of his music should be comfortably sated with I Heart California, especially with the addition of Murray and Espinoza of Earlimart. Together, they've formed a perfect marriage of sound, style and substance.

I Heart California will be available here in its entirety until its official release on July 13. Let us know what you think of the music in the comments section below.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Robin Hilton is a producer and co-host of the popular NPR Music show All Songs Considered.
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