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Album Review: "Freedom's Goblin", Ty Segall

Ty Segall is a garage rock/psych rock artist that’s released a new album every year for the past 12 years. There’s not much more you need to know about the guy, and that’s the problem. What pisses me off about his discography is that he has a seemingly neverending amount of pretty good projects. He’s great at making 6/10 or 7/10 albums; in fact, his track record for it is flawless. But why fully digest his discography when none of his releases are going to blow you out of the water? What’s the point? I always think I’m enjoying them more than I am; my first or second listen, I’m having a great time. But by the fourth or fifth, I couldn’t care less. Every single time I go into one of his projects, I’m hoping it’ll be the one that keeps me interested enough to come back, yet it never is. All of this has kind of led to him being an afterthought to me.

But I’d heard that Freedom’s Goblin was supposedly his longest, most ambitious effort yet, so I thought maybe against all odds this would be the project of his that’d make me buy into his appeal. And those things are true to an extent: Ty does take more risks on this project, with incorporations of jazz, punk, funk, and glam rock. There are also a good handful of slower, more mild cuts, yet no shortage of strong, bold ones where Ty’s shredding. Theoretically, this seemed like it could’ve been his breakthrough.

And you can’t deny that the project does have some impressive high points. Despoiler of Cadaver is an easy pick, with its deep, nocturnal soundscape; its blaring percussion, funky bassline and hushed vocals make it one of the most likable moments of the album. Rain is more effective than I expected it to be; the drumming is tastefully placed into the production, and I love its steady buildup into heavy layers of guitars. Meaning is also easily one of the project’s best with the clicky snare drum and sporadic distortion that comes together into a steady, killer climax. Talkin 3’s freakout of horns and guitars are pleasingly abrasive; the screeching vocals fit the track perfectly too.

Freedom’s Goblin also seems to have more solemn, mellow cuts than I remember from any Ty Segall album up to this point. Rain’s gloomy pianos that gradually flow into distorted, shrieking guitars fit the bill; the soft, luminous guitars on My Lady’s on Fire come to mind as well. Cry Cry Cry’s lingering, howling guitars almost feel a little folk/country influenced, and was definitely pulled off more effectively than I expected.

Unfortunately, the highlights on this album are virtually cancelled out by boring cuts. There’s an equal amount of songs that just felt redundant to material Ty’s already been putting out. Shoot You Up feels really one-dimensional and becomes unengaging quickly. I like the sweet, ringing layers of guitars on You Say All The Nice Things, but it probably would’ve benefitted from added elements or a tempo change or two; I’m pretty much done with the song a minute or so in. I’m Free is similar; I enjoy the slower-paced, more skeletal production, but there’s not really enough to it to justify keeping it in the album. The Main Pretender has a nice sax lead, but overstays it welcome. Prison is this one minute interlude-type-thing that’s basically just more layers of distorted guitars and adds nothing to the project.

Despite all this filler, I can take away more highlights from Freedom’s Goblin than the majority of Ty’s other releases, and I enjoy this more than his self-titled release last year. It takes more risks than usual by his standards; I liked the sax additions, and the sporadic experimentation in a song or two. I guess I just would still love to see him push it a step further. I think he has it in him; it’s just a matter of taking his time to make a truly fleshed-out, realized project. Until then, Ty Segall will stay forgettable to me.


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