Tobin Sprout Credit: Brook Olesnavage

What defined the classic era of Guided by Voices—the stretch from 1990 to ’96 when the lo-fi indie rock kings produced their undisputed best work—was the push and pull between the band’s figurehead, Robert Pollard, and its guitarist and co-front man, Tobin Sprout. The notoriously prolific and scatterbrained Pollard brought countless fractured, loose-limbered ideas to the table, and Sprout injected them with a melodic sense and whimsy inspired by the British Invasion, eventually transforming damaged bedroom recordings into pop majesty. The divide between their musical approaches was particularly apparent when following Sprout’s 1996 departure from GBV, the two released their first solo records on the same day: Pollard’s Not in My Airforce was his most noisy, spotty patchwork effort to date, while Sprout’s Carnival Boy was made up of mellow, sentimental pop. Since then Sprout has released a handful of beautiful solo records, briefly fronted a punky project called Eyesinweasel, and forged a career as a illustrator. He rejoined GBV in 2010, kicking off a four-year reunion run in which he revisited his untouchable dynamic with Pollard over a ridiculous six full-lengths. Sprout was putting together music for a seventh, but when the band suddenly imploded (again), much of it wound up on his first solo album since 2010, the brand-new The Universe & Me (Burger Records). A bit more rough around the edges than usual, the record still shows off Sprout’s knack for lush and heartfelt hooks, plus there’s more genuine GBV DNA here than in the current version of the band Pollard’s carting around on tour.   v