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December 14, 2019   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Review: “Freedom’s Goblin” is free of faults

Freedom's Goblin

Ty Segall

In his 10th studio album, “Freedom’s Goblin,” Ty Segall joins fuzzy guitar with electronic funk. The result exceeds all expectations of what his brand of alternative-rock can be.

The album is strange but satisfying, perfectly hitting points of weirdness that make it a success. To say the uptempo tracks are danceable and energetic is an understatement, and charming isn’t quite enough to describe the slower songs on the album. With strums of electric guitar and Segall’s eccentric falsetto vocals, both the singer and the album sit in a comfortable niche of quiet rock and glorious indie tones.

One of the greatest strengths of “Freedom’s Goblin” is the opening song, “Fanny Dog.” The song mixes a chorus of trumpets with the pleasant chaos of drums, and the snappy layers of Segall’s voice are a captivating addition to the madness. “She,” which comes in the latter half of the album, has the same charisma as “Fanny Dog.” The song is almost completely instrumental, and it proves Segall’s vocals aren’t necessary for the album to be a success. The repeated melodies and spiraling electric guitar are meant to be intoxicating, and Segall executes them with excellence.

The trumpets, which are a motif throughout the album, play a less prevalent role in “My Lady’s On Fire,” the album’s serene interlude on destructive love. They play along with Segall’s steady vocals, a cymbal’s soft chime and an acoustic guitar. The brass pairs lovingly with the main melody, but also brings a jazzy style to the song. “You Say All The Nice Things,” another love song, makes perfect use of Segall’s acoustic guitar. The descending guitar picks are the ideal background to Segall’s lyrics, in which Segall asks his lover about their feelings for him. His falsetto isn’t quite an attractive partner to the instrumentals, but it’s at least endearing for its conviction.

In “Despoiler of Cadaver,” Segall deviates from his normal alternative-grunge theme. It’s a hodgepodge of miscellaneous funk beats, toeing the line between madness and sanity with an electronic foundation, high-pitched parts of the chorus and lyrics about a murder. “Talkin 3,” though similar in sound to his other tracks, is more upbeat and higherpitched. Wind instruments take the lead, alongside Segall’s screams, and though the listener must weed through the tumultuous instruments, the resulting anthem is electrifying.

As the listener moves through the album as a whole, what emerges is not so much a theme, but a repeated sequence of comfortable guitar riffs and common tropes. There’s usually some deviance in melody, and it’s clear Segall’s experimentation works, but often the tracks blur into each other, and it can be difficult to differentiate between the upbeat songs. This doesn’t disqualify the talent present in “Freedom’s Goblin,” but it does take away from the enjoyment of the album.

Segall’s cover of British band Hot Chocolate’s 1978 hit, “Every 1’s a Winner,” is the best song on the album. The song is almost unrecognizable, and it is dressed in alternative flavor. Segall’s cover is an octave or two lower, calmer in disposition and filled with indie influences. To juxtapose his low-tuned instrumentals, he introduces the quiet jingle of a bell, his muted falsetto and layered vocals. Segall exudes charm in “Freedom’s Goblin,” and it’s this aura that makes it easy to listen to. Segall stands distinct in a genre dedicated to vibrant individualism, and his virtuosic album stands as witness to the musical acuity.