Grandaddy: Blu Wav

Although Blu Wav, the sixth studio album by Grandaddy, is credited to the band, it may as well be a Jason Lytle solo album as this collection of songs that mix bluegrass with new wave (hence the album’s title) finds the band’s frontman providing just about everything from the bulk of the instrumentation, vocals, and lyrics to the production, mixing, and even the album artwork. While the thought of combining the two otherwise disparate genres may not seem like an idea that would work, Lytle managed to create something heartbreaking and beautiful thanks largely to careful song craftsmanship and gentle vocals with lyrics that detail heartbreak and loneliness in a frank and sometimes funny way.

After the short title song that opens Blu Wav, the album’s second single, “Cabin in My Mind”, glides in nicely with gorgeous synths, choral “ahs”, and an effective slide guitar provided by Max Hart. The song makes for a beautiful early moment that manages to set the listener up nicely for what’s to come. Here, Jason sings about going to a cabin in his mind whenever he misses someone from his past. While “Cabin in My Mind” could very well be about Grandaddy bassist Kevin Garcia, who passed away in 2017 due to a stroke, there’s no mistaking that the song following it, “Long as I’m Not the One”, is about lost love. “Once upon a time, I knew that you were mine, but that time has gone, long as I’m not the one,” Lytle sings during the song’s second verse. With its mentions of beer, trucks, and being left alone in a field, the excellent “You’re Going to Be Fine and I’m Going to Hell” is the most country song on the collection in both lyrical themes and sound. Other than a dynamic midway instrumental break, synths and percussion are kept to a minimum as an acoustic guitar and Hart’s masterful slide work under Lytle’s wryly humorous lyrics make this song a standout moment.

“Watercooler” is the most uptempo number in this collection. Here, Lytle’s pragmatic lyrical imagery imagines one half of a couple in a doomed office romance telling the other that it won’t work between them. The contrast between the comparatively buoyant instrumentation and ill-fated coworkers makes for an oddly optimistic moment that belies the protagonist’s heartache. “Yeehaw Ai in the Year 2025” is the second of a trio of short instrumental pieces; this one utilizing synths, bleeping and blooping electronics, a piano, and the barking of a coyote. The moment works as a nice ear reset before the folky “Ducky, Boris and Dart”. The piano returns for the ballad “East Yosemite” which is followed by Blu Wav’s longest song, and the last one with vocals, “Nothin’ to Lose”, which finds the song’s dramatic minor chord changes adding tension before the meta chorus of “and credits roll, over it all, those summer nights and pleasant skies.”

For all the lyrics about loneliness, emotional abandonment, and longing for loved ones from the past, Blu Wav is not a hopeless record. It’s a journal set to music that has Jason Lytle expounding upon a brief history of despair and heartbreak and the self-help steps he employed mentally to overcome the grief that comes with loss.

Rating: 8.2/10

Listen on Apple Music

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