Artist: Ty Segall
Release Date: August 25, 2014 (Drag City)
Buzz Factor: 4.6/5.0
Ty Segall has only been active as a solo artist for eight years, yet he has already matched and exceeded the studio LP count of perennial indie sweethearts Built to Spill and Modest Mouse respectively – that’s not even counting Segall’s various offshoots. One would think that any artist pumping out that much material year after year would assuredly run out of steam and sputter out, however Ty Segall’s latest album, Manipulator, is the defiant answer to such a tested convention.
Manipulator is relentless – storm like with its decisive marching and aggressive intensity, but awe inspiring in much the same way. From the initial pulsing of 8-bit synthesizers on the album’s title track, all the way to the layers of Bowie-esque guitar solos on the closer, “Stick Around,” Segall’s latest exhibits a controlled momentum that never tires the listener over its 56-minute span. Complementing the spot-on pacing comes a strong-armed and rich production; Segallstrikes gold in finding a rare balance between garage and mainstream rock on Manipulator, nabbing each of their defining qualities in the process. The result is an album that demands to be turned up and played in its entirety, much like the classic LPs Segall draws influence from.
The album’s standout, “Feel,” best captures the essence of Manipulator with its wild fervor and brash strut. The track begins with a slick bass line straight from Black Sabbath (equally catchy as it is forceful) played in tandem with drums, providing the necessary rhythmic primer for the fuzz-fueled guitar romp to begin. Once the guitars do kick “Feel” becomes a whole lot heavier taking on a harsher and more aggressive identity, all the while Segall skillfully floats his voice atop this muscular production. Eventually the song culminates in a guitar solo that feels simultaneously modern and nostalgic, an apt scale representation of the album as a whole.
A more subdued approach is taken in another standout, “Singer” where Segall’s voice appropriately takes center stage along with swells from the string section. The vocal delivery is sweetly dismal as he transitions between contemplative verse to soaring chorus, further demonstrating his musical range. The track’s 6/8 sway contrasts Manipulator’s usual 4/4 rigid propulsion to tremendous effect, allowing both to be viewed more favorably after all is done and the bass for “It’s Over” starts thumping.
It may be true that most prolific artists eventually start releasing material just for the sake of doing so, but Ty Segall is certainly an exception, growing at a rapid pace producing well-written music with a creative spontaneity that likens him to the legends he emulates. Manipulator is a display of Ty Segall’s strength as a song writer, acutely nostalgic without ever feeling played out – Segall is just continuing where others may have left off and in doing so he becomes fresh and unique.