Welcome to the revamped From the Vinyl Vault where each week Frankie and Michael will share a record from their collections and talk about its importance to them and alt music! Let's get started!
Grandaddy - The Sophtware Slump - 2000 (Frankie)
Taking it back to my youth with the 2000 sophomore album by the space-rock, lo-fi group Grandaddy, aptly named The Sophtware Slump. Grandaddy started in 1992 in Modesto, California, when singer/songwriter Jason Lytle was injured and could not return to his career as a professional skateboarder. The Sophtware Slump is a concept piece, an ode to the Y2K hangover and decimation of green space to make room for more people and more stuff. Lytle mixes his sympathy for discarded technologies and longing for wide-open spaces so seamlessly and sweetly it will have you watching Blade Runner and tearing up when an android gets retired. The album was entirely written by Lytle, who holed himself up in a humid cabin for days. The other four members are always billed as “Performer.”
V2 Records, a label with a huge client base including The Raconteurs, Nada Surf, Alkaline Trio, and Moby, released the album in May 2000. It was a worldwide hit, drawing the likes of Liv Tyler, David Bowie, and Kate Moss out to live performances. It was later re-released in 2011 with some B-sides and demos to celebrate its 10-year birthday. Grandaddy has been compared to Radiohead, sharing their post-millennial angst, and Lytle himself has been compared to the sound of The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne.
The album starts with a stunning nine minute intro song titled “He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s the Pilot” in which a pilot, perhaps an android, is a sort of dot-com era Icarus, returning to earth with nothing to offer and not feeling very welcome. The huge piece is full of layered guitar and vocal distortions, very electronic in nature. A couple song’s later in “Jed the Humanoid,” we are introduced to “Jeddy 3,” a successful attempt at android life, soon replaced by new inventions. “Jed had found booze and drank every drop/ he fizzled and popped/ he rattled and knocked/ finally he just stopped.” The song is actually a less serious way for Lytle to confront his alcoholism at the time.
Side B starts off with a short tear jerker before taking up a sarcastic (if not angry) tone in “Broken Household Appliance National Forest” in which Lytle makes a joke of all our discarded technology and waste becoming one with nature, singing “meadows resemble showroom floors/ owls fly out of oven doors/ stream banks are lined with vacuum bags/ flowers reside with filthy rags/ a family of deer were happy that/ the clearing looked like a laundry mat.” The song quickly goes from these melodic descriptions of refrigerators replacing hollow logs backed by gentle guitar picking and synth tones to the angrier, heavier guitar and drums welcoming you to the new national forest. “Jed’s Poems (Beautiful Ground)” is another short semi-autobiographical tune about Jed/Lytle and his drinking habits and disillusionment with society. The last saga on the album, “Miner at the Dial-a-View” is the story of a miner on a 15-year off-planet job using a machine to view his hometown, like a Google Maps live stream, watching everyone’s lives go on without him but still yearning to go home. The hook of the song is an android woman’s voice explaining how to use the “Dial-a-View” to the miner.
I just snagged my copy, a re-issue pressing on black vinyl, from Magnolia Thunderpussy in Columbus, Ohio.
Band of Horses - Cease to Begin - 2007 (Michael)
It was this album that truly made me love Band of Horses. Specifically, two tracks at first "Detlef Schrempf" and "Is There a Ghost". This album is absolutely remarkable combining all of the best aspects of alternative and country into a sound that's not quite alt-country, but at the same time sort of is. I would listen to this album repeatedly, then I learned how to play most of the tracks on guitar, and began to cover them frequently. Band of Horses quickly vaulted themselves into elite status, where they have stayed with me ever since.
I've seen Band of Horses in concert and even though Ben Bridwell was suffering from a serious cold, he didn't miss a note. He easily could have canceled that cold show in Cleveland that winter but the band went on and performed all of the favorites for their fans. #MadProps
Back to Cease to Begin. The album features some slower tracks, (i.e. "Is There a Ghost", "No One's Gonna Love You" (which would be horrendously covered by Cee Lo Green), "Detlef Schrempf" and "Marry Song", which tends to be a signature of Band of Horses. However, there are some really upbeat tracks on the album as well such as "The General Specific", "Ode to the LRC" and "Islands on the Coast". To be honest most people joke that Band of Horses always have mostly slow songs, but it typically tends to be about half and half.
Regarding certifications, in the U.S. the album did not certify, but in the UK it certified Silver. However, the album appeared on numerous top albums lists in various publications.
For me, it's their most well rounded album, again with a good mix of ballads and a good mix of upbeat songs, some of which lean a little heavier alt-country ("The General Specific"). What is also great about this album are Ben's lyrics and the cadence with which he sings them, he is truly masterful at this.
The copy I own I purchased at my favorite record store on the planet, Omega Records in Dayton, Ohio.