Wednesday, June 29, 2011

YACHT: Shangri-La

     In celebration of the new Call of Duty map-pack and zombie level, 'Shangri-La', released yesterday, I'm going to review YACHT's second album of the same name. Yep, I'm that sad. Hailing from Portland, this American electropop group consists of core members Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans, with a few other artists supporting on tour. Originally the solo project of Becholt, Evans was enlisted as a full-time member in 2008, a time from whence the band became known as a two-piece outfit. This record is widely considered to their second, despite Jona releasing three full-length lps prior to Evans long overdue recruitment. 'Shangri-La's sound then, is one of happiness and playful experimentation. It's ear candy for the people who can afford to take it in and 'get' it, much like that Battle's album, 'Gloss Drop'. This is similar, be it with more vocals and an air of synthpop that harks back to the late 80's. It's a trip into an alternative, skewed universe, smothered in pink candyfloss. It grooves, laughs, dances, dreams, and discards all responsibilities!
     The opener, 'Utopia' runs wild in a city formed around a child's imagination. The vocals are quirky but flow brilliantly with the beats. Evans' singing is fantastic, fluctuating between high and low notes without feeling messy, and supported by Becholt's equally as interesting lower range. The words fit into the melody perfectly, with the repetition locking effortlessly with the atmosphere. The said soundscapes are filled with pink balloons, giant water slides and mountains of chocolate. It's a smile-inducing parallel universe that floats and bobs with laughter. The next track however, is very different. The playful rhythm is still there, but in a manner one could liken to a madman burning books. 'Dystopia' is immediately darker from the offset, with the lyrics littered in the occasional swear-word, painting a messier, more hectic picture. The way the words are sang are great though. The short and recognisable vocals are beats in themselves, and manage to remain strangely happy, despite the lyricism. It's simply wonderful to explore the way this album is created, it really is. There is definitely no shortage of originality in these ten tracks.
     This is such a feel-good collection of songs though, if you haven't cottoned on to that feeling yet! Laptop wizardry emphasises the irresistibly whimsical hooks and almost alien sound these guys promote. It's like nothing you've heard before, which is reason enough for you to check this record out! ' Love in the Dark' is an alien encounter, though one which excites and compels rather than frightens, with it's haunting electronic whirrs and War of the Worlds-esque mystery. Some might consider the whimsical hippy vibe as annoying after repeated listens to the album, but for me it manages to create, like the first track, a utopia to which I can escape the monotonous and unimaginative world of politics and work. Some of the tracks are a little low in regards to the vocals from Evans, but the outstanding shine of other songs easily outweighs this little niggle. It's frankly, inspiring!
     The passion and building adrenaline on 'Beam Me Up' is a gorgeous and indulgent two minutes, and the thought-provoking monologue of 'Paradise Engineering' feels gripping where it could have felt lost and out of sync with the rest of the record. The real clincher for me however, is the finishing and indeed, title track, 'Shangri-la'. It slows down considerably, which works very well as an ending five minutes. After the upbeat and drugged-out feeling the other nine tracks emulate, this is a much more serious, but no less happy morning after. It's like waking up after a dream to a street caked in snow, glittering in the fresh morning air. The surreal, psychedelic state has dissolved, with a fraction of that child-hood joy seeping into reality, making life feel just that little bit better!