YACHT See Mystery Lights

[DFA; 2009]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: electronic pop
Others: LCD Soundsystem, Cut Copy, Dan Deacon, The Blow

"Psychic City," the barest track on YACHT's See Mystery Lights -- Jona Bechtolt and his new music partner Claire L. Evans' first LP on DFA -- sounds like it washed up in a Walkman on the beach and was brought home to safety. It feels about right, too; not only does Bechtolt strikes me as someone who collects obscure gems, sonic and otherwise, but as Pitchfork pointed out in a track review of the "Voodoo City" version of the song, the lyrics were "snagged from a track on an old Rich Jensen K Records tape." Evans' voice tries to capture that archival feel in a minute and a half: it's scratchy and simple; her candid, casual voice wanders around the scale in a surprising melody that lures in the listener like some tracks of The Blow, Bechtolt's preparatory beat work for this band.

Clearly, Bechtolt doesn't take himself seriously, despite being adopted by The DFA, and one needs to look no further than his Twitter feed, live shows, and videos as further evidence. On last year's single "Summer Song," the ominous, sturdy, thunder-clap atmosphere the band creates is still nothing but happy: the song's about as threatening as a highly competitive dance-off. In fact, the title of the album, See Mystery Lights, best conveys the feeling of YACHT's recent work, suggesting a tourism board advertisement forbsomething freaky and fun.

On Lights, "Summer Song" is the centerpiece, but it's by no means the only standout. The heavy influence of LCD Soundsystem makes for some slow, heady, plucky bass-thumping growers, like "I'm In Love With A Ripper (Party Mix)" and "It's Boring/You Can Live Anywhere You Want," though the latter suffers from the refrain of its dull title, while the beat goes on quite powerfully. From the unexciting composition that envelops Rich Jensen's lyrics on the proper five-minute version of "Psychic City," the band is best when one of these components -- either words or melody -- is the focus. This may even be a requirement for the songs on Lights to succeed. Still, despite two annoying effects -- the lyrics "Ay yay yay ah" and what sounds like the blip of a new iChat -- the song evolves and benefits from neat synth flourishes and layering as it comes to a head and a close.

But it may be the only track on the album that's warm, both through lyrics and melodic resolve, and it eventually becomes clear that this album is an odd mix of The DFA's precision and Bechtolt's sensitivity. When it follows "Psychic City," "Summer Song" is a little too confident, a little too serious, and very emotionally flat. It's a good song, but a far cry from old YACHT. This YACHT can be found on "City" and especially "We Have All We Ever Wanted," where he gives some cheeky, yet sage advice of the variety found often on I Believe In You. Your Magic Is Real: "Be careful with the downloading/ Read the comments." Although still a strong album, YACHT would do well to better marry its aesthetic with the famous DFA beat factory, instead of giving it such clearly separate airtime.

1. Ring the Bell
2. The Afterlife
3. I'm in Love With a Ripper
4. It's Boring / You Can Live Anywhere You Want
5. Psychic City (Voodoo City)
6. Summer Song
7. We Have All We've Ever Wanted
8. Don't Fight the Darkness
9. I'm in Love With a Ripper (Party Mix)
10. Psychic City (Version)

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