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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