The terrible irony of garage rock, surf, revival, et cetera, is that it makes lo-fi into a sound. Music that started by rejecting the trappings of the contemporary studio has somehow become a scratchy, trebly, reverberating convention as recognizable as Auto-Tune. In that context—and in several others—Ty Segall's new Sleeper is refreshing and satisfying.
From the somehow perfect second chord of the title track, Sleeper makes itself about songwriting. The album hearkens to early Tyrannosaurus Rex and certainly has a recognizable sound, but that sound is less a crumbling palace than a sturdy platform for Segall's ballads. They are inventive without innovating, unexpected yet crafted in a way that suggests he wrote 100 and kept the best 10.
They also suggest he got dumped. The breakup album is a particular form, and its emotional weight often renders stylistic conventions bathetically light. That seems to have worked to Segall's benefit here. Sleeper showcases his songwriting gifts and dissolves the noisy genre affectations that can sometimes calcify around them. On more than just an emotional level, it is the album he needed to make. It confirms that he is not a mere garage prodigy. Ty Segall is a songwriter.