By KRUA Music Manager Oli P
“I want to make a really heavy record: evil, evil space rock. Put a little Satan in space and you got the sound.”
These are the words of Ty Segall describing his prospective album prior to the release of what would become 2012’s Twins. A year has now passed since Twins debuted, and in that year a whole lot has changed in Segall’s sound. His newest album Sleeper abandons the Satan-in-space approach: instead, the sound is more like low-altitude Lou Reed, floating in some dark, dreamy clouds, rambling off poetic, painful lyrics, looking down at earth and laughing, guffawing, and playing a guitar that blasts thunder and rainbows out of the headstock. That is not to say that the entire album is a sunshiny work – in fact, quite the opposite. A prominent minor-key feel persists across the whole work, but it is one of those curious minor-key albums that is simultaneously dark and convivial, the kind of the songwriting reminiscent of various phases of David Bowie’s career. But even the title of the album is a contradiction, because Segall must not sleep at the rate that he cranks out music.
Whereas Twins tended lyrically towards the lighter-hearted,Sleeper is darker in subject matter. Segall bares on this album some deeply personal stories of grief in the wake of his father’s death and his attempts to cope and normalize. Combined with his commendable and charming style of fuzzy, slightly out of tune psychedelic garage rock, his lyricism on Sleeper has the effect of hitting a nerve that can only be tweaked by emotional, lo-fi music.
Not only have Segall’s lyrical aims shifted since his highly productive year in 2012, but so too has the timbre of his music. Satanic power-punk guitars hammered at 100 mph have been replaced with thinner, slower, softer folk strings, strummed without the same wild and raucous fervor. The album is twangier, with more acoustic strings influenced by the American South on “6th Street” as well as a prominent western bandwagon folk tune feel on the closing track, appropriately called “The West.” The album is much less fuzzy than previous work, but still has the warmth imparted by vinyl-esque distortion and lo-fi vocal mics. Whereas Twins was conducive to flailing and gyrating, Sleeper is, as one might expect, sleepier. It’s mellow and headnodic. This blend of sleepy and lo-fi makes for a fine follow up to Twins, and will certainly leave room for freedom on subsequent albums, which will no doubt roll out in the very near future.
Seeing as it a typically rainy August in Alaska, Sleeper deserves mention as a fine wet weather album. Something about the lo-fi-meets-extra-powerful-lyrics combination is good company when there’s nothing but rain outside. Satan or no Satan, it still rocks.
On the whole, Sleeper is an excellent addition to the Segall Legacy.