Jason Lytle may have retired his former band, Grandaddy, but it’s hard to tell from his solo debut, Yours Truly, the Commuter. Importing his unassuming, wispy tenor, the electronic flourishes he brings to his lonely brand of folk, and a twitchy distrust of both technology and his fellow man, Lytle doesn’t stray far from what his small but devoted fanbase has come to expect. His songwriting is as sharp and distinctive as ever: Lytle is quick to declare the end of days on both personal and global levels on standout songs like “Brand New Sun” and “I Am Lost (And the Moment Cannot Last),” tempering his self-deprecation and paranoia with genuine wit and a keen observational eye. Lyrically, these songs are a step up from the last two Grandaddy releases, the off-putting Excerpts from the Diary of Todd Zilla EP and low-key swan song Just Like the Fambly Cat. There’s also a nice structural balance to Commuter, with a surprisingly optimistic streak in its opening run of songs undercut by a retreat into despair and loneliness on songs like “This Song Is the Mute Button” and, in its latter half, “Here for Good.” Still, there’s the feeling that Lytle is coasting here, particularly in terms of adhering so tightly to the trademark sound of his former band. While there’s something to be said for Lytle’s having defined a clear aesthetic vision over the course of his career, the intricate but predictable production he brings to these predominantly midtempo songs doesn’t explore any new facets of that aesthetic. Commuter may be a welcome return of an idiosyncratic talent, but it also finds Lytle a bit too stuck in his own head to stand alongside Grandaddy’s most challenging, accomplished albums.
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