Let me preface this review by stating Grandaddy was/is my favorite band and has been since not too long after I saw them open for Coldplay in 2001 at the State Theatre in Detroit. It's rare that you go to see a band you really like (at the time Coldplay were just starting to get attention in the States and I was in love with "Parachutes") but come away much more impressed and blown away by the opening act but that is exactly what Grandaddy did.The next day, I was out at the local record shop purchasing their most recent release at the time, the critically acclaimed "The Sophtware Slump," and that set me off on a collecting binge that hasn't stopped since.
It seemed Grandaddy would put a stop to my collecting themselves when it was announced in early 2006 the band was breaking up. Despite overwhelming critical response and success within the indie music world, the band never really broke through to the mainstream as was always predicted they would. Their final release, "Just Like The Fambly Cat", spelled the end.
It became clearer to the public through interviews and articles written at the time of the band's demise that Grandaddy, at least on record and in studio, had essentially become Jason Lytle. Lytle wrote and produced all of the material, as well as performed most of it on record. The band practically existed to perform Lytle's material live in the latter years. Their final two releases, the EP "Excerpts From the Diary Of Todd Zilla" and full length "Just Like The Fambly Cat", were essentially Lytle solo efforts. So the next logical step seemed to be a solo career for Lytle which is exactly what was launched in 2008. Despite the end of the band, fans rejoiced that he would be carrying on.
And carry on he does with the release of "Yours Truly, The Commuter." Lytle is not reinventing himself or his sound with this release. But this is the work of someone who sounds refreshed and rejuvenated. His move from longtime home Modesto, California to Montana can be felt throughout "Yours Truly." You can hear the difference in the music. Lytle left behind a lot of baggage and bullshit in Modesto and the move has served him well. Although "Fambly" had some stunning highlights, it also felt like the work of a man burned out on his surroundings and situation.
Lytle makes it clear where he's coming from on the first lines of the title track that opens the album. "Last thing I heard I was left for dead/well I could give two shits about what they said/I may be limpin' but I'm coming home" he declares before setting us off on an oftentimes stunningly beautiful song scape.
The first half of the album is quite varied but all retaining Lytle's signatures that made so many fall in love with Grandaddy's music. "Brand New Sun" delivers it's uplifting message amidst sunny, dreamy pop that just screams to be blasted from the car radio on a hot summer day with the windows down. The title track is another unforgettably catchy melodic pop/rock track. "Ghost of My Old Dog" is Lytle at the top of his game, musically and lyrically. Slowly building from an acoustic guitar intro to an all out rocker by the time the chorus kicks in, he reveals a significant others concern that he is thinking of another lover is simply him reminiscing about another long lost love, the "old dog" in the title.
The second half of "Yours Truly" is a journey through six ballads. In less capable hands this could drag an album down and slow it to a crawl. But as any Grandaddy die hard knows, some of Lytle's best, most personal and introspective work is his slower material. Here he starts with "Furget It", a mostly instrumental piece with the title repeated a few times at the beginning that then explodes into a lush choir of "Ah's" and lovely orchestration. The sad waltz "This Song Is The Mute Button" follows before another of the albums highlights "Rollin' Home Alone" kicks in. This will go down in Lytle's catalog as another in a long line of classic ballads. Starting with just acoustic guitar, bass and drums for the verse the song then builds to what he does best. Gorgeous, melodic backing "Ah's" over his chorus with strings and orchestration to create a grand moment. Then while all this beauty is going on here comes a fuzzed out, one note keyboard sound to play over the top for 30 seconds. A classic Grandaddy-esque moment and it works to dazzling perfection when the "Ah's" and strings kick back in. It's the kind of thing that sounds like it just shouldn't work but it simply stuns here.
"You're Too Gone" laments a relationship gone bad, "too gone" to do anything to fix it before segueing into "Flying Thru Canyons", a piano ballad accented with keyboards and effects. The two work well together with the majestic "Canyons" offsetting the sadness of the former track. The album closes on another piano ballad with a title that should make his fans happy, "Here For Good."
I'm sure there will be some wishing for a little bit more of the experimentation Grandaddy was famous for. But as Lytle has stated, he'll pull out the crazier stuff for future releases. You only get one shot at that "first solo album" and he has produced a cohesive, consistent work he should be proud of that serves as a stunning reminder of his brilliance as a songwriter and artist.