Tyler Lyle has been an ETTG favorite since he released The Golden Age and The Silver Girl back in 2011 and showed that being a singer-songwriter can still be noteworthy. While it’s a difficult genre to stand out in, Lyle showed that personal lyrics and an album that he describes as about “a girl. One girl. Every girl. It’s a theme album. It’s a break up album.” While not a full length follow-up, Expatriates has a different tone, a slightly different sound, and new level of lyricism.
It’s a well known fact that all singer-songwriters can write good love songs, that’s their bread and butter. Almost all of them can write good break up songs too. But what can make a singer-songwriter stand out? As I mentioned above, a particular gift with words and honesty can do that. Perhaps the most easily recognizable sign of a great singer-songwriter is their ability to write “universal” songs. Songs that don’t fit a particular emotion or scenario, songs that transcend the moment and become stories, legends. Expatriates is full of these songs.
The first track, “Medusa,” starts this album off with a much darker tone than the last. When you hear “Ya see, my corpse was born inside of me./ Sometimes I carry him, sometimes he carries me”, you know that this album is not about love songs and personal relationships. This song puts the singer in the shoes of Perseus, legendary slayer of Medusa, though perhaps he’s not the hero we all remember. With the repetition of lines like “Time is not the enemy. I am, I think” and “If I come, I come to raise the dead,/ Even with all these demons in my head”, it’s clear that the gift for songwriting that Lyle has has surpassed your average musician.
“Werewolf” is a confession of sorts, a song about being different people or perhaps just showing different sides of the same person. The crescendo is the first line of the chorus, “And some days, I am a mother fucking werewolf”, a line that is both an admission and a confession, an acknowledgement of limitations and shortcomings. “Rodanthe” is a more traditional singer-songwriter type song, though it tracks the relationships from beginning (“The best moments are the ones you can’t tell anyone.”) to end (“One day, it might be as good as it was, but it’ll never be better.).
The most incredible song on this album is “Ithaca”, a 25+ verse song that lasts over 12 minutes. It’s a story of a man, it’s the story of struggles, it’s personal and universal, it’s heartbreaking and hopeful, it mixes modern with ancient ideas. It’s a song that ends with the words “I’m sorry” and tells of a man who travels from Lexington, to Tennessee, to Babylon, to Ancient Jerusalem, to Vichy France. When you here the chorus and it begins “In a beautiful dream you were walking,/ In the city by the sea,/ and you wanted me like I wanted you,” it has a hopeful sound. But when he finished the chorus and adds, “I wish that were true”, it’s hard to not feel this song in a way that transcends words.
Lyle continues to impress us with his amazing ability to write with such clarity that it’s difficult to talk about what his songs are about. His songs are both personal and effective and universal and the stuff based on and from legend. you really should take the time to sit and drink this album in.