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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

YACHT: Shangri-La (Release Date: 6-21-2011)

        Have you been searching far and wide for that new new sound, something real trail-blazing, unique, and unfamiliar? YACHT might not be your best bet. The electro-leaning Two piece could be described with a number of positive words, but innovative isn't really be one of them. Since 2009's See Mystery Lights, the band has been signed on to DFA records, a label famously headed by LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy, among others. His band's influence on YACHT's newest, Shangri-La, is evident at just about every moment, and seeing as listening to Murphy's band can often feel like a game of, 'Name that Influence!' YACHT really doesn't sound like they're breaking new ground. No matter: A song that works is a song that works.

        A prime example of this crops up right out of the gate, as opener Utopia absolutely launches into itself, chugging full-seam ahead on legs made of speedy percussion, hyper-active bass, and exuberant chanting. It creates a mood and tone for the album, One that Track Two, the poignantly-named Dystopia nearly completely does away with, opting for a more electronic, down-tempo groove in which vocalist Claire L. Evans boldly proclaims, "The Earth, the Earth, the Earth is on Fire/We don't need no water/Let the motherf***** burn," over and over again. Again, not a particularly new sentiment (or sentence), but the juxtaposition of the first Two tunes is worthy of note: Shangri-La aspires to serve as a dance party in the face of the apocalypse, stuffed with end-of-days imagery, all sung/shouted over the disc's bouncy backing tracks.

        While I find the idea to be interesting and inspired, it would appear to me that such a grand concept album is a bit out of YACHT's reach. Take Holy Roller, a tune that rides a minimal bass beat as Evans' ruminates on a crumbling world, leading to a chorus of, "Don't you worry about god up above/We're gunna live life in love." Like much of Shangri-La's second half, it would be overly harsh to call the tune a failure, but it's not exactly a winner either, leaning too heavily on lyrics that aren't as rousing as they were seemingly intended to be, in turn forgetting to flesh out the instrumentals with interesting sounds. Much of the same could be said of Paradise Engineering, a song that sounds particularly like a lost LCD cut, and whose mock-motivational-speech lyrics would have benefitted tremendously from Murphy's less-authoritative phrasing.

        Once again, Shangri-La is not a bad listen: The Two openers really work for me, and the rest of the disc does sporadically, I Walked Alone and Tripped and Fell in Love both establishing solid grooves before over-staying their welcome, Beam Me Up sounding good but departing too early. I have yet to come to a final decision on closer and title-track Shangri-La, a sudden sing-a-long that lasts a good Five minutes and could readily be described as Soft Rock, but, boy, do I love hearing my home state of Oregon get shout-outs in songs! For a band whose sound is relatively indistinct, it's heartening to see YACHT attempt to take on some big ideas and concepts. Here's to hoping they can grow into them someday.

Grade: C-

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