Like rapture so ominously muted, Sumday reminds me of a stretch of land that rests between Stockton, CA’s anomalous integration of haughty dilapidation and the busy nature of San Francisco’s international terminals (circa 1999-2001). Relying on vague recollection, this section of earth finds itself between I-5 South and I-239 North; most likely the 30 mile escape known as I-580 West. Paraded by arid rock formations and a healthy palette of dirt colors, this passageway of solitude is broken only by the blossoming windmill population that spreads itself over the hilly plateaus. While drained of its beauty and poise, the echo that resides between these valleys is a strange, eerie comfort. A voyager amongst these aged panoramas is left clear in its presence; a peculiar seclusion whose whispers absolves even the greatest of condemnation. And Grandaddy’s latest is that absolution; if not for the band, for those who share such duty.
The Sophtware Slump saw Grandaddy veer into OK Computer territory with its less than organic themes and electronic glitches in a desperate struggle to find humanity amongst the machines. Now three years since, the androids, the robots and the computer bleeps have, on most accounts, found a far more settled resistance and in place, a mellow rock countenance that only sporadically charges on sprinklings of blips, loops and bloops. Instead they push forth with soft guitar strumming, gentle percussions and great idyllic composure that so exquisitely blossoms in the opening track, “Now It’s On”. With Jason Lyttle’s rasped croon and high arching melodies tuning the fine air of escape, the track is a perfect blast of thoroughfare reminiscence and is keyed by the breaking free found in the words; “Bust the lock off the front door / once you’re outside you won’t wanna hide anymore.”
Yet with this distinctively subdued disposition (with the emphasis less on experimentation), the songs become deceptively foretelling. In “I’m On Standby”, the band once again harkens into the thematic tales of human/robot anglings; either it is an interpretation of humans as machines waiting for an upgrade (“I’m on standby / out of order or sort of unaligned / Powered down for redesign”) or it is merely personal question marks that go unanswered at song’s end, a waiting for evolution that is as eloquent as the song’s soothing coastal pop swirling.
There is a profound sense of lyrical observation and sardonic humor that Lyttle so cleverly employs in “The Group Who Couldn’t Say”. Upon first listen, it was thought that this tender ditty spoke of a band who sold enough records to fund a countryside tour – but in fact, it sings of disillusioned workers being set free on nature’s graces and following their apparent inability to comprehend the new, uncluttered atmosphere. Characters go as far as doing math when encountered by lofty trees, “He wondered how the trees had grown to be so tall / He calculated all the height and width and density / for insurance purposes”. All while constantly sparking ideas of reassessment and life-realignment, “And the sprinklers that come on at 3am / sound like crowds of people askin’ / “Are you happy what you’re doin.””
It isn’t until “Yeah is What We Had” that this G-unit utilize a more galactic rock sedative; distorted walls chime in as the vocals waver, the track is perhaps the album’s most morose moment, far less buoyant it sneaks away from the carefree breeze that has become Sumday’s custom; striking a far different chord and ultimately adding a cloud of distinct gloom. However, it does appear to be a fitting prelude to “Saddest Vacant Lot in All the World”, a gutted piano number that runs the gamut of downtrodden pity and alcohol fueled separation.
Grandaddy then optimistically pen human decline in “O.K. With My Decay”; stating that there is little one can do about the inevitability of humanity, so little is left but to accept and rejoice – a progressive recognition of the modernization that engulfs our world and the weight cast on our shoulders. Sumday is clarity amongst the stillness that is found in between those cavernous surrounds. And if traveling home / breaking free / casting off from the weary past requires clemency, then the end sum of all that resides here is that glorious sense of lifting burden; an emancipation with great conviction.