Jason Lytle: Yours Truly, the Commuter

By: Sarah Hagerman

It's tempting to cast former Grandaddy frontman Jason Lytle's solo debut, Yours Truly, the Commuter (Anti-), as being wholly thematically concerned with rebirth and renewal. Since the Modesto, California-based outfit split in 2006 after 14 years of slogging it out to little payoff, Lytle took off for the open spaces of Bozeman, Montana and found a low-key approach to making music. Although that change of scenery strongly informs the songs, this is an album that ultimately lives in the purgatory tension between moving forward and looking backward.

The record opens as gentle toy piano tinkles give way to electronic swirls, then strings and then Lytle's unmistakable worn-sofa-cushion-soft voice:

Last thing I heard I was left for dead
Like I give two shits about what they said
I may be limping
But I'm coming home.

That home is elusive, comfort often dangling just a few inches above fingertip brushing level. Both nature and domesticity are present throughout, but neither is totally accessible as a source of peace. On the driving, cerebrally hooky "Ghost of My Old Dog," the image of Lytle laughing with the specters of beloved deceased pets is at once sweet and sad, while the graceful "Birds Encouraged Him" finds the feathered friends asking the protagonist, "Why, oh why/ you don't even try?" This is hardly a downer of an album though, at least not for me. What I always loved about Grandaddy, and what Lytle continues here, is the ability to capture both precious slivers of beauty and yearning loneliness, sometimes all in the same song. Offering weirdness without theatrics and a palatable substance-fueled isolation, the band were always the thoughtful outsiders on the couch in the midst of a raucous psychedelic pop party, although they could certainly bolt into moments of head-spinning ecstasy. Their search for connection was something I could relate to, and that always made me feel less alone.

Commuter cures that sonic craving I've had for the past three years with a more meditative bent on the signature Granddaddy sound, where splatters and exhilarating spaces sprawl and squiggle and technological flourishes tumble with organic warmth. A buzzing drive-chain is wrapped around songs like the rumble strip jitters of "It's the Weekend," and the blank page shimmer of "Brand New Sun," but drops out completely for stripped down numbers like "Flying Through Canyons," a wistful heart shining naked, or the spare, piano driven sigh that marks the closing bell of "Here for Good," where Lytle sings:

I drink wine in the morning
I change the locks to my thoughts
Sudden death is so boring
So I'm here for good

It captures the end of a long chemical fueled night, a bad trip, or a decision to change old, self-destructive habit patterns. You are grateful to see the sun as you step onto your front porch, the cold air raising goose bumps on yours skin as your brain cells chug back to normal operating procedures. You've survived, but even as you move on, at least a small part of you will always miss the party. Jason, we're certainly glad you're still here.

JamBase | Newly Awake
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[Published on: 9/21/09]

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