The Echo Park area of Los Angeles has become home to a number of indie acts, many of which originated from further inland of the state. If the scene has a name/center, it is The Ship Collective, the loose term given to acts that gravitate around The Ship studio of Aaron Espinoza, one-half of the core of Earlimart (QRO spotlight on), along with Ariana Murray (QRO interview with both). About as centralized as Los Angeles itself, The Ship Collective has still now managed to give birth to its first super-team-up, as Espinoza & Murray join forces with Jason Lytle and Aaron Burtch of the late, lamented Grandaddy, to form Admiral Radley. And for their debut I Heart California, the band ranges as wide as the state, with the quality you’d expect from such a team-up.
I Heart California had to open with its title track, but “I Heart California” sets a high bar for the rest of the record, as it’s hard not to heart this nice groove into something bigger, while it retains its touch. Yet no song could really properly introduce a record as diverse as this: there’s sweet alt-country strum (“Lonesome Co.”, “Chingas In the West”), lo-fi catch-chant (“I’m All Fucked On Beer”), a little ditty from Murray (“The Thread”), cheery-fun up-tempo indietronic toe-tap (“Sunburn Kids”), matter-of-fact weary restraint in closer “I Left You Cuz I Luft You”, and more. What’s more, other than the sweetness sometimes getting repetitively simple (like on “GNDN”), Admiral Radley do all of these styles well – well enough that you might wish after a song that they’d have stuck to that style, rather going to the next, but California can never sit still or be pigeon-holed.
Los Angeles is a big city & California is a big state, but in the alternative music scene both have had a tendency to bat below their weight, while ‘indie cities’ like Portland (Oregon – screw Maine!) or Austin bat above theirs. The Ship & its Collective have begun to turn that around, or at least sail for warmer waters, and now Admiral Radley is at the steering wheel.