A lot happened after Julian Lynch's fifth album Lines appeared in 2013. Still entrenched in a PhD program, the multi-instrumentalist was already traveling the globe working toward his dissertation, and in 2016 he signed on as a full-time member of Real Estate, the breezy indie band at the core of a group of friends he'd loosely collaborated with for years. Joining Real Estate took significant time away from the routine Lynch had established for working on his solo sounds, but playing live and making music in a band setting also opened up his creativity. His sixth album Rat's Spit is the culmination of everything that happened in the five years that led up to its release, drawing from a massive transition in how Lynch had to think about music and performance, in addition to acting as a diary of personal anxieties, revelations, and joys. Layered production and exploration of timbral blending made Lines the most profound of Lynch's albums up to that point, and Rat's Spit takes that approach even further, offering a palette of dense but organized sounds. From the bloom of album-opener "Catapulting," Rat's Spit is clear, metered, and emotionally reaching. The driving song pairs a small army of fluttering guitar patterns with swells of ambient synth while Lynch's ethereal vocals float suspended above the hopeful but uncertain barrage of sound. More than ever, the fringes of pop music played a role in the inspiration of Lynch's lush sound world. As he and his friends got their start making muted, psychedelic bedroom pop on four-track cassettes, Lynch's solo music grew more academic and refined, opting for slowly unraveling meditations over traditional pop song structures. Nods to the weirder edges of the pop charts show up all over Rat's Spit, too. The stumbling drum machine, Auto-Tuned vocals, and growing layers of synth countermelodies that make up "Strawberry Cookies" land the song somewhere between early O.M.D. and Kate Bush's experiments in melodrama on side two of Hounds of Love. "Hexagonal Field" continues this pop maximalism, blending waves of vocal harmonies with twitching Linn drum patterns and Lynch's bright beams of Robert Fripp-modeled guitar playing. "Meridian" sees drawn-out vocal harmonies and glimmering guitar leads winding around a complex chord progression. The patient tick of percussion and electric bass place the song in the same ambient pop realm as Talk Talk or Tears for Fears at their most subdued. The album ends with "Reallu," a gently reflective tune that begins with a somber, steadfast pulse and grows into a storm of guitar noise, tape manipulation, and electronics. Rat's Spit replaces Lines as the strongest chapter of Lynch's musical vision, arranging a vibrant and overflowing world of sounds and ideas so precisely that the songs never feel messy or overcooked.