Release Date: Oct 16, 2012
Record label: ATO
The jam-band swami tries atmospheric pop with members of the National and Mates of State on this solo joint. The arrangements, full of spacious production and abstract beats, can be gorgeous, and the cover of Gorillaz's "Clint Eastwood" is spot on, even if its potent hooks point to a shortage elsewhere. But "Pigtail" – all class-clown philosophizing and noodle-dance groove – is the slam-dunk: a reminder of what he does better than anyone else.
It’s been a while since Trey Anastasio has released a proper studio album. Phish’s lead guitarist was quite active as a solo artist during his main band’s various hiatuses in the ‘00s, touring and recording extensively with the not so creatively named Trey Anastasio Band (TAB), which ranged in size from a guitar-bass-drums trio to an expanded seven or eight-piece band with a full horn section. But the last time Anastasio hit the studio with his band was way back in ‘06, and the result was the loose and wide-ranging Bar 17.
Traveler is Trey Anastasio's first studio solo album since 2009's orchestral art pop sleeper, Time Turns Elastic. Peter Katis was enlisted as co-producer; his résumé includes work with the National, Interpol, and Jónsi. Along with the Trey Anastasio Band (TAB), the credits are littered with guest appearances from violist and violinist Rob Moose (Bon Iver), vocalist Kori Gardner (Mates of State), and the National's Matt Berninger and Bryan Devendorf.
Like the swirling, impressionistic painting on the cover of Trey Anastasio’s first studio release since 2009, the sound is impossible to easily describe. From the straightforward indie pop of “Pigtail” to the Zappa meets Pablo Cruise breezy style of the astonishing “Scabbard” –filled with glorious musical non sequiturs– to the reggae-ish cover of Gorillaz’s “Clint Eastwood” featuring the soulful vocals of Jennifer Hartwick, Traveler takes you on a journey far removed from the improv heavy stylings of Phish. Not all is new material; Anastasio covers his own “Let it Ride” in a more upbeat version than the somber take on 2006’s Bar 17 , and other tunes have been live concert staples now given studio rearrangements.
As a lyricist, Trey Anastasio has always been plagued with a case of arrested development, content with bromides straight out of the pop-psychology handbook, or else the occasional song cycle about imaginary worlds drawn in broad, crayon-like strokes. Traveler marks no departure from this pattern, but its music moves in a distinctly chamber-pop direction under the guidance of producer Peter Katis, noted for his work with Jukebox the Ghost, the National, Interpol, et al. Here, Anastasio forgoes the extended solo in favor of expansive soundscapes while keeping seven out of 10 songs under four minutes.
“What if we set out to make a record that people could pop on in their car on their way back from a concert or that they could throw on at 2 a. m. , when they’re driving?” This was Trey Anastasio‘s co-producer (The National, Interpol, Jónsi) Peter Katis’ vision for Traveler, the Phish frontman’s trek into the world of indie rock, on which he toted along members of The National and Mates of State, as well as longtime collaborator Tom Marshall and members of the Trey Anastasio Band.