In the context of the larger modern music landscape, Ty Segall has been pegged as something of a retro-revivalist. On its face, it’s a fair assessment. Heavy on the fuzz, heavy on the freak outs, and light on the studio polish, he employs the genre tropes of garage rock to the utmost. Anyone that dismisses him on the basis of this description, however, is doing himself a disservice, because Segall’s sounds are so much more than that.
Garage rock is simply Segall’s native tongue. In his efforts to date, varied and many, he has shown listeners everything that can be. Each album, has been wildly different than the last. Yet, they have each been a permutation of the rock combo formula that has been around since the first teenager plugged in. That he can wring so much color from such a limited palette signifies the nature of his creativity. His discography is testimony to both ambitiousness and a lack of the fear that inhibits more image-conscious artists. In an era where far too many artists define themselves as undefinable, Segall simply walks the walk. He does not seek permission or forgiveness.
As a mostly acoustic home recording, Sleeper is the closest Segall has yet come to a reflective album. It’s quieter than Segall’s previous offerings. That lack of volume does not amount to a lack of intensity, though. On Sleeper, the order of the day is strummy rumination. In many ways, last years assaultive (and excellent) Slaughterhouse could be heard as a reflexive counterstrike against nuance and artifice. Along these lines, Sleeper embodies the moment when the fog of war has lifted and casualties are being tallied. If Slaughterhouse was desperate, Sleeper is dire, a last ditch effort to assess and re-assess. And though the lyrics are intelligible this time around, they are no less difficult to comprehend. Meticulously enunciated, spoken with grave seriousness, Segall’s words are obtuse enchantments. “We read the notes/placed in our hands/forged in the sands/from distant lands/and let your hair grow/and let them know/that the dreamers can still shake hands,” he sings on The Keepers. A Ty Segall album is not just the latest collection of his best batch of songs. It is a mood, a state of mind from a time and place. Sleeper is no exception.