Jason Lytle

Dept. of Disappearance

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Jason Lytle's second solo record, Dept. of Disappearance, isn’t a great departure from his first solo effort. Like that record, this has the feel of a guy (an extremely talented one) sitting in front of his computer late at night, surrounded by musical gear and in a reflective mood as he calmly lets the music tumble out of him. It’s also not too far from the sound of the last couple Grandaddy records -- combining the pastoral with the nocturnal, acoustic guitars with synth squiggles, slow-motion ballads and lightly bubbling pop tunes, with Lytle’s unaffected vocals and slightly off-kilter ruminations on life running through it like a steadily flowing stream. The album may be a strictly one-man affair (he played all the instruments) but it never sounds like it. Lytle’s widescreen production and layered arrangements are richly constructed and sound more Abbey Road than they do Montana home studio. The care Lytle puts into the sound is impressive but would be for nothing if the songs weren’t as evocative and softly hooky as they are. The ballads achieve a weight and depth thanks to the instrumentation and the surprising power of Lytle’s weedy vocals. On a song like “Matterhorn,” the massed guitars and thick synthesizer swells team with the vocal harmonies to create some real emotion. It’s a trick he repeats again and again throughout the album, as his subtle productions and the sneaky minor-key melodies help the songs sink deeper and deeper. The lighter-weight songs on the album, like the breezy “Get Up and Do It” or “Willow Wand Willow Wand,” have an easygoing charm that offsets the rest of the album’s heaviness. Dept. of Disappearance shows that far from vanishing, Lytle is making a claim to be one of the more interesting and consistent singer/songwriters around; willing to take sonic chances, but always delivering music that’s as much about feel as it is about meaning.

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