Once you get past the sad-sack moan/drone vocals, Sebastopol -- inexplicably named after a city in Northern California -- attempts a unique approach with its opening one-two punch: "Feel Free" features swampy drums punctuating a repeated organ riff (from the Flaming Lips' Steven Drodze); subtle prog elements give "Clear Day Thunder" the feel of something off Guadalcanal Diary's later work.
But then it's back to business as usual. The songs start sounding similar both to one another and to Farrar's previous work, with only the occasional dab of psychedelia to distinguish them from anything on other spotty Son Volt affairs. Clunky lyrics sung with typical weight-of-the-world weariness are stuffed into meandering, alternate-tuned, chorus-free melodies.
None of which would be bad or particularly disappointing if it were reserved for filler between music as transcendent as that on Trace. But little here has the power, glory or emotional pull of even the weakest songs from that album, making Sebastopol an adequate -- but hardly a landmark -- chapter in Jay Farrar's increasingly formulaic career.
Jay Farrar plays Fri., Oct. 12, at the Variety Playhouse