Ty Segall’s eighth solo album experiments with lo-fi production

Chris Duncan

Throughout his eight-year career, alt rocker Ty Segall has done everything on his own terms. Each of his releases takes on a new sound, experimenting with different instrumentation and composition. His latest project Emotional Mugger, released Friday, does exactly that, taking risks on almost every song.

Since 2008, Ty Segall has contributed to over 40 albums, delving into solo projects as well as albums with Fuzz, Mikal Cronin and the Ty Segall Band. Some might argue that Segall’s massive output indicates quantity over quality, but amongst his plethora of releases, there are several impressive records, including 2010’s Melted and 2014’s Manipulator. This recent effort provides an interesting twist on low-fidelity production to help create another fun Ty Segall project.

To announce the album, Ty Segall and his label, Drag City Records, mailed out press copies with no previous notice in early November. These exclusive copies on old blockbuster VHS tapes contained the full album along with a crumpled up note defining the album’s title as “a psychoanalytic subject to subject exchange formed as a response to our hyper-digital sexual landscape.” It’s difficult to tell how much the concept influences the album as Segall seems to ramble about anything and everything that comes to his mind.  

Ty Segall’s releases aren’t exactly monotonous, but Emotional Mugger is almost everything Ty Segall fans have come to expect from one of his projects — guitar riffs and booming drums dominate each track, while his vocals, occasionally raspy and indecipherable, appear to be an afterthought.

This isn’t a bad thing at all — in fact, it has come to be expected after so many releases. What makes the album different, however, is its subtle tweaks in style, manipulating the record’s lo-fi production to help expose some new elements to his music.

The first three tracks of Emotional Mugger don’t distinguish themselves from each other, but the album’s fourth track, “Breakfast Eggs,” is ultimately where Segall starts to make changes for the better. Introducing an extremely thick fuzz pedal, Segall’s guitar riffs seem to blend into the song, becoming more electronic sound rather than distinct guitars.

From the fourth track on, Segall changes each song’s sound in a subtle and intriguing way. “Diversion” has both an odd mix of Segall’s vocals and synth-sounding guitars, and “Mandy Cream” has layer after layer of music, adding to its trippy effect. The only slip up in the entire album is “W.U.O.T.W.S.,” which features so much experimentation that the song is nearly impossible to follow. Even the most dedicated Ty Segall fans will be left shaking their heads at this song’s confusing lack of a distinct rhythm.

Emotional Mugger can drag on a bit too long, but the 38-minute album surprises and impresses during the majority of its tracks, helping break the creative rut Segall has been in since Manipulator.

Anyone who is not a fan of Ty Segall’s old albums will likely feel the same with Emotional Mugger, as Segall doesn’t change enough to reinvent himself as an artist. However, followers of his discography will find something new to enjoy in the album, which could be Segall’s most prolific release in recent memory.