Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s featured selection is the title track to the debut album by Jason Lytle, called Yours Truly, the Commuter on Anti- Records.
Jason Lytle is the best guy ever. I’ve never once met him and barring a single Grandaddy show many years ago I’ve never even been in the same room with the dude. Yet somehow, through his songs and stories, it feels like Jason is one of my friends. One of my tightest bros from way back when. Lytle is the same as me and those whom I’ve known all my life — cut from the same jib, one of the same ilk, WHATEVER — the guy constructed a brilliant song around a Neil Blender sample (Grandaddy’s “N. Blender”). Do you know how many times I watched that video when I was a kid? LOTS. Hell, I still have the VHS and I’m watching it now.
Despite my affinity for the push-push, skateboarding alone is not nearly enough for me to get fanatical about someone’s music. Over the years, Jason Lytle, a former semi-professional skateboarder, has made some of the most elegantly raw, beautifully honest songs these ears have ever heard. Grandaddy’s second album, The Sophtware Slump, is on my ridiculously short list of 100% perfect albums. Lytle’s songs have always been written from an immensely accessible position of solitude and vulnerability (you’ve been there) — his hushed vocal style, soothing keys and ingeniously plopped synthetic blips hang together to create songs you just can’t not like.
Yours Truly, the Commuter finds Lytle on familiar but shaky ground. The album’s title track begins just as tentatively as Grandaddy’s final album, Just Like the Fambly Cat (2006), ended. The opening notes call to mind the most masterfully synthetic moments of his past while ceremoniously introducing us to the future. When Lytle sings “Last thing I heard I was left for dead/Well, I could give two shits about what they said/I may be limping but I’m coming home,” he summarily acknowledges the sadness and alienation of his last years in Modesto (Grandaddy’s tumultuous demise, commercial pressures, money, substance abuse) and announces that despite all the shit he’s been through that, yes, he is giving this another go: “All work and no play mighta done me in/So I’m stoked I’m back after where I’ve been.” Often seen as downer-rock, there is a positive undercurrent to Yours Truly not seen since the peak of his former band’s success, 2003’s Sumday. That being said, the comfort level and pop-confidence of the aforementioned album is greatly understated here.
As a lifelong skateboarder, I can’t help but think about blowing out my knee as a kid (Lytle himself tore his ACL skating) and the subsequent surgery and recovery. I remember feeling like my leg didn’t belong to me anymore, that my mind knew exactly how to do all the tricks I’d learned before the injury, that I could see myself as I was before but somehow nothing seemed to work. I remember feeling like a lifetime of accomplishments was gone forever. As I got stronger, the successes of the past began to find their way the surface and eventually everything came back. It sucked but I’m better for it. Yours Truly, the Commuter is the onset of Jason Lytle’s recovery and shows him limping forward through the crippling injuries of his past, relearning tricks, getting himself healthy. While musically the album is not much of a departure for Lytle — it’s obvious that he’s revisiting earlier work in his attempt restabilize and grow — Yours Truly contains some of the best songs Lytle has ever written. “Birds Encouraged Him” and “Flying Thru Canyons” recall the fuzzy catchiness of 2001’s Through A Frosty Plate Glass EP while the acoustics of “Brand New Sun” and “I Am Lost (And the Moment Cannont Last) fall somewhere between Under the Western Freeway and The Sophtware Slump. When I hear Jason Lytle’s music and look at his art, I feel like we grew up together, watching skateboard videos, laughing and dreaming. I’ve been unemployed since April and this is the only record I’ve bought since. Highly recommended.