The piano steals the show
Grandaddy—a notorious California-based group—has released a new rendition of their 2000’s album The Sophtware Slump, featuring lead lyricist Jason Lytle on vocals and piano, the sole elements of the 11-track album. The stripped-down songs oddly transform the old album into one appropriate for the climate of 2020. From divisive politics and environmental disasters to COVID-19, the somber tone the stripped-down album delivers is one everyone can likely resonate with. Perhaps unintentional, the lyrical nuances and sole piano create a depressing tone, with Lytle’s wispy lyrics drifting from melodic to haunting. This isn’t to say the music is bad, but it certainly doesn’t invoke a cheery outlook.
When one strips a song down to just lyrics and piano, the song is guaranteed to have a heavier emphasis on its lyrical composition. Analyzing these lyrics from the standpoint of 20 years in the future is fascinating, yet troubling at times. For instance in “He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s the Pilot,” Lytle sings “welcome back to solid ground my friend/ I heard all your controls were jammed/ well it is just nice to have you back again,” indicating the 2000’s competition was one welcoming and thankful of stability. Ironically, 2020 is anything but stable, representing how time can greatly influence the interpretation of a song. What once were grounding lyrics have soured into haunting ones, and coupled with a hypnotic piano the track becomes all the more enticing to analyze. In fact, the track itself is insanely cerebral and beautiful, and listeners may even enjoy an album confined to the piano alone. This notion is particularly showcased in “E. Knievel Interlude (The Perils of Keeping It Real)” and it could be argued as one of the best songs in the entire album.
Peculiarly, some tracks almost sound reminiscent of musical theatre when stripped down to the piano and lyrics alone. Pieces like “Broken Household Appliance National Forest” sound oddly like the start of a broadway musical, as the sharp strokes of the piano in conjunction with Lytle’s enthusiastic vocals create effervescent energy strong enough to excite a crowd. However, the majority of the songs seem to have a more depressing tone to them, and it is impossible for the album to avoid sounding repetitive. Despite this feature, tracks like “So You’ll Aim Toward the Sky” are given new life with the piano, and though they have a sad undercurrent, create an overall optimistic tone in the album. If the listener were stranded in the desert, this song would be the whisper of hope in their ear encouraging them to move forward. Though depressing, Grandaddy ultimately cultivates a soft, optimistic quality in the new rendition of their 2000’s album The Sophtware Slump.
Overall, the distinguishing feature of the album is obviously the piano. As aforementioned, the dynamic melodies captured across the album are enough for listeners to likely demand a purely instrumental rendition. Even with the vocals, fans will still likely adore The Sophtware Slump….. on a wooden piano due to the range of feelings it invokes in its audience.