From the first bars, Jason Lytle invites the listeners of Yours Truly, the Commuter to consider the album in context of his prior work: “The last I heard I was left for dead/I could give two sh*ts about what they said.” Lytle’s story is somewhat well known by now, yet still spotty– the frontman and creative force of the pop band Grandaddy, he was worn down as the promise of runaway success for Grandaddy remained largely inchoate, even as Lytle produced brilliant material across a decade. Not without some sort of internal conflict, the band crumbled underneath the pressure of promise so that by the time of 2006’s swan song Just Like the Fambly Cat, Grandaddy more or less existed in name only. Following its release, Lytle packed up his home in Modesto, California, the epicenter for the band’s activity, and moved to Montana to record dreamy songs in the woods he so often wrote about.
But fans of the defunct band, enjoy: Jason Lytle has created another Grandaddy record. Or has he? Sure, the same musical trappings are there, as are the nature and relationship-themed lyrics, and the distortion-soaked outro to “Ghost of My Old Dog” plays like “Summer… It’s Gone (Again).” The whole effort is like an old friend telling older stories around a campfire. But the ghost of his old band does not dance around the fire, and the stories are no longer fettered with Grandaddy’s baggage. Lytle’s return to his old ideas doesn’t mean he’s in a rut, but represents an affirmation of their merit that Fambly Cat lacked the conviction to deliver. Whereas that record had Lytle retreating into his shell as a reaction to the band upheaval, Yours Truly, the Commuter is a self-assured, consistent outing that offers no new musical thoughts, but feels new in its insistence on the familiar avatar.
In “This Song is the Mute Button,” an eastern European orchestral flourish gives way to a simple piano waltz lamenting the fallout of a breakup (again, nothing new for Lytle), which provides the most elegant statement on the record. The main riff’s rising action of “Flying Thru Canyons” is purely sublime, even as the lyrics fail to develop more than a generic story. The title track has punch not found on Fambly Cat. The album’s centerpiece, though, is “Rolling Home Alone,” which wrings extra feeling out of an already emotive record, lyrically evoking the changing of seasons. Lytle’s heart has always carried his best music, and it seems in the mountain air he has especially cleared out cluttered channels in order to express it effectively. The ultimate result is that his music still affirms the beautiful mystery of life more than most every of his songwriting peers. While it does not approach the glories of Grandaddy’s The Sophtware Slump or Sumday, in the end, Yours Truly is not a bad introduction to Lytle’s aesthetic to those uninitiated, and what’s more important, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable record.