CD Review: "See Mystery Lights"
Boredom and death fixation rarely sound as appealing as on "See Mystery Lights," the equally irresistible and head-scratching second album from electro-junk outfit YACHT. Jona Bechtolt and Claire Evans, from Portland, Ore., are capable of making some of the most repeat-listen-worthy jams you'll hear this year, but they sometimes lose interest in their own material. It's a double-edged sword -- that lackadaisical attitude is what defines the band's best songs but is what also keeps "See Mystery Lights" from being a start-to-finish powerhouse.
YACHT has long been a solo vehicle for Bechtolt, with which he's delivered quirky, off-center dance music that's as much about the bizarre as the beats. It's the full-time addition of Evans that makes "See Mystery Lights" such a success. Her just-rolled-out-of-bed speak-sing is a breath of fresh air in a landscape overrun with over-emoting chanteuses and whispering balladeers. It's a style reminiscent of the late Patty Donahue of '80s new-wave wonders the Waitresses and is a perfect fit for not-quite-rave-ups "Psychic City (Voodoo City)" and "The Afterlife," two of the year's best singles. When she sings "Come on over / We're baking a cake for you" on the former, it's more sincere than almost any heart-on-sleeve singer-songwriter confession.
Mortality is a prevalent theme but is treated with total ambivalence on lurching songs such as "Ring the Bell" and "The Afterlife." "Will we go to heaven, or we will go to hell?" Bechtolt asks, but it's unconvincing that he actually cares. "It's Boring / You Can Live Anywhere You Want" doesn't live up to the first half of its title; it's simply by-the-numbers dance rock that label mates LCD Soundsystem do much better. And closing with remixes of two of the previous eight songs seems unnecessary. It'd be easy to ask YACHT to try just a bit harder, but that might just ruin the whole thing.
-- David Malitz (July 2009)