yourstrulyThree years after the dissolution of his band Grandaddy, front man Jason Lytle returns with a solo album in the truest sense: Yours Truly, The Commuter was written, recorded and played solely by Lytle at his current home base in Montana. Musically, it’s a mix of electronica, neo-psychedelia, experimental pop and acoustic folk, and lyrically, there’s a thorniness and melancholy that pervades the album, sometimes co-existing alongside apparent sunniness and optimism. Much of the record has a airy beauty about it, and sometimes seems rather like a tone poem about transition, loss and finally arrival and discovery. It’s for the most part a very quiet and very subtle work that may take repeated listens to peel back all its layers, but the effort will be worth it. Standout cuts: “Yours Truly, The Commuter,” “Ghost Of My Old Dog,” “Brand New Sun” and “Birds Encouraged Him.”

First of all, let me just say that any band that has recorded a song called “Fry Bread,” as New Mexico based band Brightblack Morning Light (Rachael Hughes and Nathan Shineywater) did on their debut LP, is already on my good side. That said, their second album, Motion To Rejoin, doesn’t have any odes to Native American cuisine, but it does include music that is the auditory equivalent of taking the good acid (whatever color that is): The nine tracks have a hallucinatory quality that’s by turns beautiful and mysterious, otherworldly while at the same time utterly evocative of the American landscape. Trying to nail down what they sound like is sort of a tricky business. They are fond of the long song, so it’s tempting to label them a jam band, but a more apt description may be Mazzy Star crossed with Pink Floyd, with a healthy dose of jazz, gospel, blues and psychedelia thrown in for good measure. It’s lovingly crafted, densely layered music, with ghostly and often distorted sounding vocals hovering in the mix. The songs on Motion To Rejoin require a certain amount of patience and attention, but it’s patience and attention amply rewarded. Standout cuts: “Oppression Each,” “Another Reclaimation,” “A Rainbow Aims” and “Past A Weatherbeaten Fencepost.”

A side note: The music on Motion To Rejoin was recorded using power from four solar panels. If that isn’t being green, I don’t know what is.

The Verve – Forth

August 26, 2008

For those worried that the Verve’s first album in eleven years, Forth, is either a cash-in or a futile attempt to recapture past glories, fear not, this collection of ten songs is neither of those. Instead, Forth is a work that can easily stand alongside the best of their work in the 90’s. Picking up where they left off on 1997’s Urban Hymns, Forth immediately draws you in with the cool, soulful neo-psychedelia of “Sit and Wonder,” with forceful lead singer Richard Ashcroft sounding as good as he ever has. The band is working on a large canvas here, combining psychedelia with Britpop and straight ahead rock and roll, frequently allowing themselves to jam out a bit, as on the eight minute plus “Noise Epic,” one of the highlights of the album. At least half the album is taken up by tracks that push past the six or seven minute mark, though this can hardly said to be a record given to meandering. Instead, it’s thrilling, edgy work, with not a wasted minute to be heard. Definitely recommended for longtime Verve fans, but Forth will make a lot of top ten lists at the end of the year no matter how familiar listeners may be with their past records. Standout cuts: “Sit and Wonder,” “Love is Noise,” “Valium Skies” and “Appalachian Springs.”

Superior psychedelic rock from Austin, TX based band The Black Angels: Directions To See A Ghost is their second full length release, and stylistically they fall somewhere between the heavy sound of fellow travelers Black Mountain and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s first album, though stopping just shy of full on retro take on the genre found on the Black Hollies’ latest, Casting Shadows. (What’s the significance of all these bands with similar sounds with the word “black” in their name? To quote Pee Wee Herman, “I don’t know!”) All comparisons aside, the Black Angels have carved out their own niche in an increasingly crowded field, laying on the guitars, thundering drums and bass, organs, sitars and tambourines in an often droning, slightly menacing mix. Though they’re not afraid of long tracks, as the 8 minute “Never/Ever” and the 16 minute album closer “Snakes In The Grass” will attest, the 11 tracks nevertheless go by quickly, much faster than you’d think an epic 72 minute running time would go by. It’s easy to get caught up in Directions To See A Ghost, and though it’s an often pretty dark trip, it’s one worth taking, courtesy of one of the rising stars in the neo-psychedelic rock field. Standout cuts: “You On The Run,” “Science Killer,” “Never/Ever” and “You In Color.”

(Available now digitally, and on CD on May 13.)