The story of YACHT is one of falling in and immediately out of love, a tale in which rears the ugly head of the internet. And although the history of YACHT might be short, there was a period of seemingly strong backlash against the Portland, OR duo. Where it stemmed from is hard to say, but the period between See Mystery Lights‘ release and the word that the band was working on new material saw the media criticizing and essentially writing off the group. Their live performances suffered from the lack of a backing band, their originally over-the-top and sometimes cheesy pop wasn’t exactly the rage anymore, causing critics to look the other way.
Enter Shangri-La, the band’s fifth studio album and second on DFA Records. It is certainly an exciting and more mature sounding record than anything previous, but more important is the fact that Shangri-La tells a congruent tale of social, religious, and sometimes political criticism. Where so many electronic pop albums fail to be compelling, YACHT’s commentary on utopia, salvation, and rapture help to give the album a sense of identity and coherence. Are they completely serious and straight-faced opinions? Not entirely, but Shangri-La certainly benefits from this ideological thread.
Apart from the album maintaining its voice throughout each play, YACHT have also taken their sound to an entirely new level on Shangri-La, crafting rambunctious and powerful tracks that more similarly resemble rock ‘n roll aesthetics than pop. And for those of you sickened with the passing of labelmates LCD Soundsystem, look no further than “Paradise Engineering” or “Tripped and Fell in Love.” The two tracks share the disco drum repetition and now-trademark cowbell slams that make DFA Records famous.
The album is also structured impeccably, “Utopia” and “Dystopia” set the tone for Shangri-La, ending with the triumphant and bubbly “Shangri-La.” The crazy surf guitar and chants of “Utopia, utopia, utopia!” during the opening track quickly fade to “everyday the flames get higher” on “Dystopia.” And by the end of the album YACHT invite you into their afterlife. On “Shangri-La,” the album’s spiritual resting place, a destination filled with sun, friends, and Wayfarers, YACHT’s sound shifts from frantic guitar riffs and hypnotic drums to bouncy synths and delightful vocals. “If we build a Utopia, will you come and stay?” asks lead singer Claire Evans, a question that merits a quick “yes” thanks to Shangri-La‘s charm.
Ultimately, it might not be a more serious album than anything previous, but Shangri-La captures the spirit of uncertainty and restlessness that 21st century modernity has created. And it relays this message while also making your feet stomp and head bob, a combination not often achieved by electro-pop bands, and an achievement worth heralding.