Ty Segall is battling it out with Mikal Cronin for West Coast album of the year thanks to his seventh album Sleeper. Of course, Segall has many many albums under many many pseudonyms, but for this instance, under his name, this is his seventh. There's a change of direction in the air. Maybe it's the West Coast sunset breeze, or the sea water carried from the surfers. Segall, like Cronin, has matured to a level of cult status that sees Wavves become unambiguous. The garage rock past of Segall is without a doubt his key musical element. Fuzz guitars and rapid percussion has earned him a name in the past decade, so listening to Sleeper is somewhat disturbing.
Disturbing! Yes, Sleeper is unusually slow, strangely acoustic, disturbingly Bill Cosby Sweater-esque. Segall has taken out the electric guitar; he's toned down riffs and discovered a new sense of psychedelic folk. Listening to Sleeper is like sitting through Simon Finn's discography. Simon & Garfunkel are at the heart of Segall's latest release, but why? It's a change that describes Segall's new sound as melodic. The hard hitting White Album progressions of Segall's usual releases are a distant past. Compared to last year’s Twins, Sleeper is angelic. "The Keepers" sounds like it belongs on a Moody Blues album, "Come Outside" - Elliot Smith's Either/Or.
Where Segall's been criticised in the past for being too nimble, he answers the critics with 35 minutes of Syd Barrett material. The Madcap Laughs is an obvious influence on Sleeper. You can hear the blues, the psych attitude in Segall's vocal work. His guitar, perfectly aligned with 60s effects - "She Don't Care". On the self-titled opener, Segall sings: "I want to sleep all day, with you." The emotions met with Sleeper all correlate with the album's late night, mellow feel - even the title says it all. There's no force of nature on Sleeper, it's all laid back material, and I love every minute of it. From the unexpected electric guitar on "The Man Man" to the sweet melody of "She Don't Care", Segall accomplishes a singer-songwriters dream. His lyrics are unique, Beatle-esque at times like with the aforementioned track.
There are countless comparisons to 60s psych folk on Sleeper. Segall's influence seems to be less determined by the music of Barrett and Finn, but more so the need to create something different, unique to his musical output. Take the third track "Crazy", Segall sounds like a timid Liam Gallagher over a Lennon / Ono instrumental. The comparisons keep on coming with "6th Street", this time Segall sounds like 80s Neil Young. Remember in Almost Famous, where the young kid goes home to rest, or in Forest Gump, where Jenny goes home to rest; well Sleeper is Segall's rest - you saw that one coming. His calming voice is on the edge of preachy, whining, but he doesn't over step the mark. "Queen Lullabye" is like 90s Animal Collective freak folk, "Sweet C.C." a vox driven rock 'n' roll track. This is an album of Segall's childhood, the music he grew up listening to before going to sleep at night. It's an album for 10pm onwards, anytime before just doesn't seem right.
It makes sense that Sleeper ends with the Segall's best musical creation in years - "The West". An acoustic ballad reminiscent of Woody Guthrie's Californee styles. Segall asks himself: "Where do I go home, is it the West, to my Father's house / Where do I go home, is it the East, to my Mother's house." - The tale of a man lost in transit. Acoustic ballads are far and few between these days, as more and more artists aim for chart hits with an acoustic guitar rather than the poetry a ballads bring. Segall is a straightforward poet, a modern day music icon, a cult figure. Some would label Segall a genius, he's just talented in the art of song-writing. His compositions, especially with "The West", are enigmatic - they're inspiring. "The West" is the perfect end to Sleeper, Segall asks questions, leaving the two possible answers unsolved, a mysterious ending to a mysterious album. Music isn't a challenge for Segall, he can pull an album out at any given time. When he mixes things up, Sleeper is created. They say Segall reached his musical peak last year, well I think his pinnacle albums are yet to come.