Grandma Sparrow and his Piddletractor Orchestra is one of the year’s most ambitious and bizarre records. On the album, Grandma Sparrow — Joe Westerlund of Megafaun — takes us on a tour of his imagined town of Piddletractor.
Grandma Sparrow and his Piddletractor Orchestra
Many of the lyrics on the record are frustratingly weird, disabling the listener from taking any sort of message away from the songs. That being said, the instrumentation is so rich and colorful that the lyrics are hardly the focus.
Grandma Sparrow incorporates a bevy of different genres on the album, accented by the haunting yet hilarious serialistic work “Nap Time: Twelve-Tone Lullaby.”
The mixture of orchestral elements with pitch-shifted vocals, strange audio samples and other quirky components combine to create a unique, psychedelic sound. Piddletractor Orchestra is a sonic collage: songs borrow elements and sound samples from one another to create a seamless listening experience from track to track. Throughout the album, Westerlund indulges his odd tendencies — sometimes at the expense of coherence of the songs.
The record is at its finest when Grandma Sparrow is able to hone these eccentricities and pairs them with sharp songwriting. “Existential Mothersnakes” and “The Farewell Bolero” both take full advantage of the string and brass sections while showcasing the two best melodies on the album. “Alew’s Dream: A True Piddlean Adventure a)Dream, D” highlights Grandma Sparrow’s musical ingenuity. The song samples and incorporates motifs from previous tracks on the record, creating a completely unique musical environment.
Grandma Sparrow has plenty of ambition, but sometimes its eccentricity get in the way. Nevertheless, when its vision is clear, Piddletractor Orchestra is a fun, original and marvelous record.
— James Stramm
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