Few artists can match the tenacity of Ty Segall. Of course, Segall is known for his electric live performances, his intimacy with his faithful fans, and his generally sunny demeanor. But, when it comes to the tedious process of writing and recording new material, Ty is surprisingly just as vehement. In 2012 alone, although working under different names, he released three albums: his collaboration with Tim Presley (the mind behind White Fence), Hair, the Ty Segall Band’s Slaughterhouse, and his own solo effort, Twins. If it was any other artist, critics might say that it was a case of committing every stray thought and whim to recording, but since this is Ty we’re talking about, every effort has been just as well composed and earth-shattering as the one that came before.
However, if there is any sonic element that persists throughout Ty’s entire discography, it’s the ever present lo-fi recording style. Segall’s always used it in some measure: in 2011’s Goodbye Bread, it was largely subdued, but still comfortably existing in the sonic periphery, perfect for setting the mood of an album he specifically wanted to sound “Lennon-esque”, while on Slaughterhouse, it was utilized to augment the already starkly painted near-psychotic imagery of songs like Tell Me What’s Inside Your Heart. And now, this is yet again a central facet of Ty’s newest release, Sleeper.
The album opener and titular track, Sleeper, begins with a surrealistic whistling, then an acoustic guitar enters, as Segall croons, “I dream sweet love, I dream for you”. While an untrained eye might think the lyrical content is about emotional longing, there’s more to it than that: rather than reaching out for something substantial, he’s trying to bring the audience into his world (or the artificial world he has “dreamed”), to acclimate them to what follows. This is not the first time he’s pulled this clever, musical hat trick: Slaughterhouse‘s opener, Death, prepared listeners for a heavy, grungy, intentionally deranged-sounding album, by hitting them with a near four-and-a-half minute long experimental lo-fi, distortion-laden romp. The crazy part is, it actually succeeds.
Not only does the Bob Dylan reminiscent, The Keepers, follow naturally, but the third track, Crazy, brings about nostalgia for Goodbye Bread: though the rhythm is awkward, and the vocals seem weak at first, this also seems choreographed, simply part of a plan that resolves itself, when, at the half-way mark, Ty layers his trademark falsetto, and chimes the lines “He’s here, he’s still here, though she is crazy”. What was rigid becomes harmonious, and as the strumming intensifies, and Segall’s pitch rises higher and higher, it’s hard not to admire the genius behind a composition like this.
Next is The Man Man, which focuses Ty’s efforts in steady and complex acoustic guitar work, and cooing vocals, yet mixing it up near the end with a novel electric guitar solo. Then, arguably the most beautiful song on the album comes along. She Don’t Care begins much like Sleeper, however the lyrics seem to paint a more vivid and concrete narrative: “He packed his bags this morning, he bought his ticket today. Don’t you go away, not today”. However, a little after the 30-second mark, the heavens open up as an angelic choir of Segall’s layered vocals, supported by soulful strings, recant “She don’t care, She don’t care about you”. It’s a wonderfully dissociative moment, where the euphoric sonic qualities contrast absolutely with the melancholia of the lyrics. But the emotional roller coaster doesn’t end there: Ty switches up the first verse for “We are here this morning, we are here today, I won’t go away, not today”, reaffirming his loyalty and steadfastness. With a grandiose ending that culminates in a multi-part vocal harmony, She Don’t Care leaves you in a state of blissful shock.
Come Outside does a good job of having to appear after the aforementioned experience, and greatly resembles what would happen if one mixed Crosby, Stills and Nash style vocals with the instrumentation of a less gregarious The Guess Who, with a side of bongos, just for good measure. 6th Street has it’s own wonderful flavor, alternating between twangy, boot-stomping outlaw country, and Segall’s smooth vocals. In addition, Ty shows his incredible talent for fretwork near the end of the track, all but ravaging the strings on his poor guitar.
Sweet C.C. is a nice break from the rest of the album, and is extremely similar to Ty’s early work (i.e. 2008’s Horn the Unicorn), in it’s simplistic lyricism and it’s rollicking rhythm. And yet, much like the opening track, followup Queen Lullabye brings the listener back to the lucid realm that Segall originally created. It puts the rest of the album in perspective: the more concrete and organic tracks are nothing more than episodic dreams, while Sleeper and Queen Lullabye are simply more hazy recollections. The formula works well, and with the CCR and folk-inspired finale, The West, the album comes to a sentimental, and genuine close.
While Sleeper requires a little more thought and active listening than previous Ty Segall albums, it shines for it’s inventiveness, diversity, and overall grassroots aesthetic. Go take a nap, Ty, you’ve earned it.