Label: DFA Records
Due Out: July 28th
Since 2003, Jonathan Bechtolt has been producing electronic music under the YACHT moniker. Drawing on themes of the current indie rock and folk scenes, on top of today's conventions of electronic music (literally changing everyday at this point), he's been able to accomplish what many others have seemingly failed to. He's appealed to a broader spectrum of music listeners, out-performing his peers, due to his (correct) realization that you can't simply sell electronic music without blending other genres into the fold. It's those type of things that differentiate someone in today's crowded, and sometimes dreary, music scene. Bechtolt has done it with a flair all his own, and his latest release, See Mystery Lights, is no exception.
"Ring the Bell" starts us off with a string of subtle confidence. Tropical percussion, shakers and of Montreal-esque vocals create a warm welcome, always a valuable asset, and the stopping and starting of the track keep you guessing, and prevent you from getting too bored. The use of a freak folk-type group chorus also aids in relating it to the indie crowd. "The Afterlife" is an equally brash and abrupt track. The prominent female vocals (Claire Evans) do a very fair impression of Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon, and if it weren't for the goofy synths in the background, perhaps I'd even take it for a SY b-side. The second half bounces between that vibe and a club hip-hop hit, an odd vibe that only works because I've talked myself into it beforehand, but is interesting nonetheless. Next, "I'm In Love With A Ripper" is obviously a take on T-Pain's "I'm In Love With A Stripper," which, as you may remember, was a pretty big hit a couple of years back. Jumping in between that, a slight Ra Ra Riot impression and something that sounds like a Girl Talk beat, you're one part confused and one part elated for the full four-plus minutes.
"It's Boring/You Can Live Anywhere You Want" is actually anything but boring, mixing what sounds like a cliche metal riff and name-that-chick-punk-band into a dynamic and rolling track that sticks out as one of the album's best. It's also the album's longest, by nearly four minutes. Half of which is basically a cover of SY's "Silver Rocket". I guess that's the grunge/noise influence? Afterwards, we finally reach "Psychic City (VooDoo City)," the track that just about everybody's heard, due to its infectious bubble gum pop background and groovy (yup, I just used that word) bass line. Though I like this one, I've got to admit, it's not the big deal everybody's hyped it up to be. Then we embark on "Summer Song," which is (SPOILER ALERT!) my favorite track on the record. It's funky, in a sort of Sly and the Family Stone way, while also employing the type of odd background noise one might find on an Animal Collective record. What's not to like about this one? I, for the life of me, can't find a thing. Except maybe the clapping. But that falls into the background enough to get past it.
"We Have All We've Ever Wanted," in comparison, resembles the worst of Montreal b-side ever. Sorry, but I can't, and won't, even indulge in it. However, we're saved by "Don't Fight the Darkness," sort of. Building on the simple opening beat, the song expands into a stripped down Vampire Weekend demo mixed with The Flaming Lips' "Fight Test". Choppy, yet still both listenable and enjoyable, it does a great job of cashing in on the tropical influences which pop up from time to time. The remainder of the album is simply two alternate versions of songs already on the record. "I'm In Love With A Ripper (Party Mix)" could actually be better than the original, with some awesome high-pitched synth parts that would blow my mind if I hadn't experimented with them myself at one point. The auto-tune also gets some bonus points since it was cautiously, and appropriately used. "Psychic City (Version)" isn't even really a remix, but rather just a crappy demo that should have never seen the light of day. I think that's the first time I've ever levied that harsh of a judgement on a song in this space, but I still mean it.
For all of the good YACHT does (and there is plenty of good here), there's a lot of stuff that goes on here I just can't support. Too much sounding like Sonic Youth. Too much unnecessary experimentation. Ugh. I didn't hate the record. On the contrary, it had its moments, and for those moments, I thank it and levy some praise. My recommendations for next time? Change it up a bit. Be a little more creative. Enjoy making the music, which it seemed like he did for portions of the record, and other times, just going through the motions. It was different enough to stand out, but not capable enough to get out of its own way. Still, I suppose it was solid enough to give a listen to. Similarities include Sonic Youth, High Places andHEALTH.
Top Track: "Summer Song"
P.S.- You'll probably be looking at an abbreviated Friday this week, just because I'll be taking a slight vacation break. However, no worries. I'll be back for next Monday, when hopefully I'll be introducing another new feature to the blog(!)