Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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. The album bounces around styles so frantically you almost wish Anastasio would pick something and stick with it. The frontman’s guitar takes a back seat, and some of the tunes such as the closing title track don’t feel finished. But Anastasio has always pushed boundaries and taken chances, even if the results weren’t entirely successful. So if Traveler seems too random and scattered for its own good, it’s never less than interesting. And in this environment of artists playing it increasingly safe, that may be good enough.