Three years after the breakup of Grandaddy, Jason Lytle returns with a collection of dreamy pop songs about nature and modernity, bathed in quirky pathos. Sounding very much like a new Grandaddy album, Lytle's solo debut waltzes between tempered exhilaration and grandiose gloominess with a winning bipolar swagger.
The album starts strongly. "Yours Truly, The Commuter" is a rollicking reintroduction of Lytle, complete with a quasi-celebratory chorus: I may be limping/But I'm coming home. "Brand New Sun" is perfectly mixed with streaky synth blasts and fuzzy guitar, while "Ghost of My Old Dog" (among the year's best titles) is a rowdy salute to loneliness.
Lytle has a tender spot for mellower moods. The trouble is that Lytle's slower songs often forgo rich arrangements in favor of dour repetition, particularly without the balance of his bandmates. After a bouncy opening trio, eight of the final nine songs hover between mid-tempo and ballad. Luckily, Lytle's songwriting abilities are strong enough to sustain the downpour — evidenced on the orchestral "Rollin' Home Alone" or atmospheric closer "Here for Good." Still, the hushed "Fürget It" and the plaintive "You're Too Gone" make a case for revving up the guitars a bit more.
Not surprisingly, Lytle's debut ultimately sounds like Grandaddy stripped down: a musical landscape where synths flutter over Lytle's intoning vocals, while guitars are crunched or quietly strummed; drumming, when employed, is adequate. It's a nice place to visit occasionally, but you wouldn't want to live there. (Anti-)