Is it too soon to talk about the best albums of 2014? Because with Manipulator, which came out at the end of the summer, Ty Segall turned in this year’s most valuable reminder that you can still get your kicks from rock’n’roll. Its high-octane distillation of MC5/Stooges-style Detroit mojo, T. Rex boogie, and Nuggets frenzy delivers unfailingly, with hooks and air-guitar glory to convince most garage-rock skeptics. And in contrast to the lo-fi distortion of his earlier recordings, Manipulator benefits from — well, I wouldn’t call it restraint, but a discipline in studio techniques that gives the album a sonic accessibility with its own delights. On vinyl, the analog warmth of the rhythm tracks sounds absolutely killer on a pair of good headphones.
Segall’s Ty-pical modus operandi is preserved on his newest release, $ingle$ 2, which compiles assorted recordings from 2011-13. A wide array of garage-punk influences and styles receives his famous in-the-red treatment, as illustrated by the first track “Spiders”: an ear-splitting blast of scuzzy feedback gives way to a sinister, creeping lurch of a chord sequence, suggesting that Segall might have some lo-fi Scandinavian black metal in the mix. By the time “Children of Paul” rolls around, the compilation returns to familiar garage-rock territory — and with some ten albums and countless singles and EPs since 2008 (!), it’s gotta be hard not to reach back to a familiar set of sources. More important in garage rock is what you do with those sources, and Segall approaches them with open ears, ingenuity and abandon. Thus his interpretation of the Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale,” a tune that literally hundreds of bands (including my own forgettable ensemble from decades past) have covered, is both expected and a smack-your-forehead revelation.
$ingle@ 2 comes out November 18 on Drag City Records.