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 midtempo 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.