Plumbiferous Media

Yours Truly, the Commuter - Jason Lytle

May 21st 2009
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Yours Truly, the Commuter - Jason LytleJason Lytle
Yours Truly, the Commuter
Score: 76

Jason Lytle’s ear­ly career con­sist­ed not of music, but of spon­sored skate­board­ing. After a knee injury, music cap­tured Lytle’s atten­tion, and he formed the Cal­i­for­nia indie group Grandad­dy. This seem­ing­ly imper­fect method of tran­si­tion­ing to musi­cal suc­cess has sur­pris­ing­ly worked quite nice­ly for Lytle. His first solo album, Yours Tru­ly, the Com­muter, which was released on the 19th, is an inter­est­ing­ly styl­is­tic LP that clear­ly shows sig­nif­i­cant ability.

Lytle’s vocals are in much the same spir­it as on his ear­li­er work with Grandad­dy, which is cer­tain­ly a good thing. Per­pet­u­al­ly just a bit sharp around the edges, and always emo­tion­al­ly invest­ed, the vocals are an enjoy­able, vital part of the album. Lytle nev­er van­ish­es behind the instru­men­tals, but at the same time mix­es very well with the sounds pro­duced by the oth­er instru­ments. Though the vocals are occa­sion­al­ly some­what breathy, espe­cial­ly on tracks such as “Yours Tru­ly” (the title track) and “Ghost of My Old Dog,” this does­n’t dimin­ish their strength, as the breath­i­ness is direct­ed towards improv­ing the sound of the track, rather than less­en­ing the tech­ni­cal ele­gance of the vocals.

Lytle has tak­en the every­man theme implied by the “Com­muter” of the album title and expand­ed that sense of the pedes­tri­an into tru­ly inter­est­ing, thought-pro­vok­ing lyrics. Lytle cre­ates an impas­sioned cry tinged slight­ly with anger in the title track by begin­ning “Last thing I heard I was left for dead.” By the end of that track, Lytle tri­umphant­ly pro­claims “I may be limp­ing but I’m climb­ing home.” This force­ful direc­tion con­tin­ues through Yours Tru­ly, expressed through the canyons of “Fly­ing Thru Canyons,” the lone­li­ness of “Rollin’ Home Alone,” and the rem­i­nis­cences of “You’re Too Gone.” While Yours Tru­ly does con­tain some weak­er lyrics, too often paired with rep­e­ti­tion, such as the rather unin­ge­nious lyrics on “It’s the Week­end,” but this issue fades in the face of the major­i­ty of the lyri­cal con­tent. For the most part, Lytle has put togeth­er a lyri­cal­ly excel­lent album.

Musi­cal­ly though, Lytle’s style in Yours Tru­ly, the Com­muter is pleas­ant, but not excel­lent. Some tracks do have very suc­cess­ful instru­men­tals: “I Am Lost (and the Moment Can­not Last)” shows excel­lent phras­ing and direc­tion with its con­tin­u­ous line that grows in tan­dem with the vocals and lyrics through­out the track; “Für­get It” acts as proof that Lytle can cre­ate instru­men­tal lines suc­cess­ful enough to even make strong, pri­mar­i­ly instru­men­tal tracks; “This Song Is the Mute But­ton” is an equal­ly strong exam­ple of Lytle’s abil­i­ty to use cre­ative tran­si­tions (the track begins with a clas­si­cal excerpt super­im­posed with a mod­ern drum­beat). But at the same time, Yours Tru­ly can seem plagued with prob­lems. Even on the most direct­ed, point­ed tracks, one line, be it a key­board drum or gui­tar line, remains high­ly repet­i­tive and com­plete­ly sta­t­ic, some­times even ruin­ing the effect oth­er­wise achieved.

While the large amount of mix­ing that occurs between the vocals and instru­men­tals cre­ates a very strong­ly cohe­sive sound which cre­ates some excel­lent tracks such as “Rollin’ Home Alone” and “Fly­ing Thru Canyons,” it also leads to a sig­nif­i­cant amount of co-depen­dence. As a result, nei­ther the vocals nor instru­men­tals can sup­port a track when the oth­er fails. Both “Birds Encour­aged Him” and “It’s the Week­end” quick­ly become the weak­est tracks on the album regard­less of how sur­pris­ing­ly active the instru­men­tals are in the lat­ter, and when the instru­men­tals become more repet­i­tive and less inven­tive, as they often tend to do, tracks quick­ly start to lose any strength with which they might have began.

Jason Lytle’s first solo album fol­low­ing his work with Grandad­dy is quite suc­cess­ful in near­ly every aspect. Lytle’s ardent voice, his impas­sioned lyrics, and his gen­er­al­ly well-con­sid­ered instru­men­tals make for a well-con­struct­ed album, and the flaws present in Yours Tru­ly, the Com­muter can be over­looked in the face of the rest of the album. Lytle has cre­at­ed an album as good if not bet­ter than his ear­li­er work and cer­tain­ly good on its own.

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