Deep and Restful
Hyperactive psych rocker Ty Segall releases, on average, about two albums a year. At 26, he’s notably young in view of an already impressive list of credits, including eight solo albums if you count his scruffy early cassettes, Horn the Unicorn and the self-titled Ty Segall. Now, having honed a loud-and-proud sound recalling the rawer acts of the ’60s, Segall has changed pace and gone quiet with Sleeper, a record whose strength derives not from the artist’s usual roughneck riffs or blown-out production, but instead a dreamy, acoustic-driven aesthetic akin to solo Syd Barrett or Bowie’s Space Oddity years.
In fact, Sleeper rarely gets that loud and hasn’t a single fast-paced track. Speeds range from a kind of slow-wave largo (“Queen Lullabye”) to a more REM-dappled midtempo (“Come Outside”), no doubt a conscious—or would that be unconscious?—decision on Ty’s part, as much of the music plays well on the hazy, half-waking tropes of classic psych. (Think Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” or the Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin.”) This kind of anesthetic slowness emphasizes Segall’s reedy voice, oblique storytelling and spartan-but-effective guitar progressions.
Choice examples include “The Man Man,” a lumbering acoustic-only number recalling the lonesome magic of Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged sessions, the Alice in Wonderland-like fantasy of “The Keepers” and “She Don’t Care,” an endearing and Lennonesque love song that, in case you weren’t sure of its influences, soars with strings for a truly crocheted, high-tea chorus. “Sweet C.C.,” too, ups the album’s overall saccharine count, bouncing with a blasé boogie marked by one of the more charmingly lazy, don’t-give-a-fuck guitar solos ever recorded.
All this serves to prove that Ty Segall is just as capable and convincing without turning his amplifier to 11, as goes the gag from This Is Spinal Tap—lest you think the guy who banged out the hard-charging Twins and Slaughterhouse may lack subtlety as a musician. With Sleeper, though, Ty shows not so much a softer side as one more restrained and confident. After conquering his signature explosive sound, he’s now willing to take a chance, slow down and allow the chords and lyrics to show through with no dross, fuzz or gimmicks—making Ty’s latest, if you’ll excuse this reviewer’s Gene Shalit flourish, the Sleeper hit of the summer.