Review: Ty Segall releases acoustic solo album ‘Sleeper’

Alexander McCall

Garage-rock mastermind Ty Segall released no fewer than three albums last year.

Although each album stemmed from different projects – a solo album, a distorted full-band record and a collaboration with fellow lo-fi rocker White Fence – they all carried distinctive vibes while retaining Segall’s sharp, quirky vision.

The motif on those albums was a contrast between lighter moments and stretches of searing guitar fuzz.

They were scatterbrained in a methodical, meticulous way. Segall’s ability to find striking melodies among the chaos is one of his strengths as an artist.

It’s intriguing, then, that his newest solo album “Sleeper” is almost entirely acoustic and song-oriented.

While some of Segall’s past successes focus on acoustic guitar – the title track of “Goodbye Bread” comes to mind – it’s surprising how well the instrument suits his songwriting.

The 10 songs on “Sleeper” mainly feature Segall’s vocals and guitar, all covered in a thick, rusty ambience.

Fleshing out the album’s heavy mood are abundant slide guitars, streaks of gorgeous violin, occasional percussion and bass, and one well timed burst of electric soloing at the end of standout “The Man Man.”

Segall’s lyrics feel much more personal and serious than on past releases, which gives the music considerable emotional heft.

Some of Segall’s best vocal melodies can be found here. They twist and turn in a more explicitly Beatles-esque way than before, but he delivers them with confidence in front of well-arranged harmonies.

The production of the album falls very much in line with his past work. Aggressive strumming, lo-fi sludge and fluttery reverb make their way into many of these tracks.

The innovative application of these relatively retro, blues-rock tricks is what sets Segall apart from other garage rock revivalists.

Although “Sleeper” isn’t representative of Segall’s style as a whole, it’s remarkably assured and cohesive.

As a result, it’s one of his best albums. Flying by in only half an hour, there’s a wealth of material that rewards repeat listening. 

In fact, every one of the rough-hewn songs on “Sleeper” is a winner, and it’s hard to find fault with the album. Certainly, Segall has a distinct, nasally voice and penchant for bizarre images, but that only adds to the album’s charm.

Some listeners, this one included, may hope that Segall returns to the searing guitar freakouts on which he made his name.

Whatever the case, his prolificacy suggests that he’ll continue to make strong, well-conceived, moody, catchy music.

Rating: Three-and-a-half out of four stars