Thursday, June 18, 2009

Album of the Week: Jason Lytle's Yours Truly, the Commuter

OK, OK. I'm late with my Wednesday review, again. I'm sorry. Unlike when I was late with my Akron/Family review two weeks ago, I don't have a good excuse beyond being generally busy, lazy, and the allergenic haze that has descended on Clevo this past week. Speaking of which, ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh.

This week's album du jour is former Grandaddy band leader Jason Lytle's solo effort, yours truly, the commuter. As a whole, the album is a pleasantly anti-urban record, a more reasonable, less antique Van Occupanther that says as much about where Lytle is in his post-Grandaddy art and life as it does about his preference for geographical locations. Overall the album is strong, a solid "buy new the next time you hit up the record store" rating, perhaps higher if you have a previous interest in the artist or enjoy idiosyncratic vocals paired with pastoral indie rock.

The first track, which shares the same name as the album itself, opens with my favorite lyrics on the entire record: "last thing I heard/I was left for dead/well I could give two shits about what they said". Anyone looking for metaphors will find no shortage here, whether in this song or on the whole album. Along with the metaphors, one will find a number of very solid tracks. "Brand New Sun" is a total warble-along, while "furget it" is lush and symphonic, with some grand muted trumpets that I love.

"This song is the mute button" is another that merits comment. It is a mellow and hopeless waltz, a song the triumphant 25-second interlude doesn't prepare you for. The tune is lyrically sparse, but the lyrics that are there are clever and blue. Tune-wise, it makes me think of Tim DeLaughter on downers. On the other hand, "I am lost (and the moment cannot last)" reminds me of Pink Floyd for the first 15 seconds or so, which makes no sense at all, just like the first 20-30 seconds of track 1 makes me think of the Crocodiles album intro. "You're too gone" starts off as a traditional ballad about past camping experiences, but about 1 1/2 minutes in becomes a really trippy and mournful meditation about lost and resistant love.

There are some very, very wonderful songs on this album, including "birds encouraged him" and "rollin' home alone," the latter featuring some really great guitar work, both in terms of acoustic strumming and a brief fuzzy electric solo. "Flying through canyons" shows off Lytle's upper register vocals, and in doing so makes it incredibly easy for me to defend him as my favorite rock singer, and the album closes with what I feel is the second greatest lyrical set on the record: I drink wine in the morning/I change locks/to my thoughts/And sudden death is just boring/so I'm here for good.

Overall, this is really wonderful and engrossing. The songs were even richer live when I saw Lytle play with a band at sxsw in March, so I really hope he comes to town soon.

As a special note to you internet music buyers, the packaging on this one is special, too. Nothing fancy or non-traditional, but the insert has lyrics (hooray!) and a great collection of photos, one of which has this nice note Lytle apparently wrote to himself to keep momentum going. It says, "No more weird arrangements ... not on this album!! Very simple, very nice. Rich, big, but with enough little 'fucked things.'" If you asked me, Jason Lytle locked this goal up tight.

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