Fans of sludgy, lo-fi, aggressive rock have only had one name on their lips this year: Ty Segall. The 25-year-old Californian, whose shaggy blond hair and baby face make him look like a young Thurston Moore, has already put out two albums in 2012. One, Slaughterhouse, has a spaced-out wall of guitar sound, while the other, Hair, is a lo-fi, feedback-filled, shambolic psychedelic trip. These records are the best kind of genre exercises: wildly fun and playful, but still operating within conventions that make them easy to listen to. Both records were deemed “Best New Music” on Pitchfork (average score: 8.45), and praised up and down the blogosphere. Stereogum spoke for many fans and critics when they called
Slaughterhouse “a confident attempt at
making the ‘evil, evil space rock’ Segall
has repeatedly cited as his ideal sound.”
So why, on his third album of the
year, Twins, is he leaving all that behind? “The whole ‘evil space rock,’ thing—honestly I wish I’d never said that,” Segall admitted recently while on a rare break in his European tour. Confronted with that Stereogum quote, his usually implacable Californian good–naturedness is punctured for a rare moment. “Evil space rock is one ideal sound,” he says, sounding a little baffled. “But, we like doing different stuff.”
From the opening chords on the new album, that’s clear. The screeching, lo-fi, dirty metal sound of almost all his other records (save, perhaps, last year’s tuneful Goodbye Bread) is gone. In its place is an unusually mature, structured, and melodic collection of songs. There are layered vocal harmonies, female backup singers, bridges, and snappy, memorable choruses. That’s not to say it’s not heavy—there are still plenty of lightning bolts of guitar wizardry. But the mix has calmed down, the notes all have plenty of space to breathe, and the background fuzz is at a minimum. At times, Segall almost sounds like 1990s Britpop kings Supergrass (especially on the album’s opener, “Thank God For Sinners”) or even Revolver-era Beatles. (“The Hill” has moments that sound like “Tomorrow Never Knows,” or, as Segall calls it, “that song where they say ‘Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream.’”)
Segall sees the record as more of an evolution than a departure. “I wouldn’t say that I have to sound distorted and gnarly and messed up on recordings for me to be happy with them,” he tells me. “I’ve always wanted to get that clean sound.” Indeed, the past year have seen a whole raft of lo-fi artists, from Frankie Rose to the Vivian Girls, attempting to release more full-sounding, mature albums. Segall is just another in a long line.
Not that he necessarily had any of this planned going in. When I ask him what his inspiration for the new record and its new sound was, he pauses for a moment. “Well, you know, I got this fuzz pedal that I really liked, and I really wanted to use. I was like, okay, start here and see what happens.” Some things never change.
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