YACHT – Shangri-La

written by: July 6, 2011
Release Date: June 21, 2011


YACHT’s new album, Shangri-La, isn’t a step forward in their sound. It isn’t a step forward in their songwriting, either. In fact, YACHT’s new album is almost a cookie cutter of 2009’s See Mystery Lights in such direct song-to-song comparisons that it might insult, and probably disappoint, many YACHT fans.

I can’t help but think, “What else could you expect from the stereotypical hipster band that sometimes spells their name with a triangle replacing the ‘A,’ and got in trouble over their frontman Jona revealing that he regularly uses pirated audio recording and editing software over the Internet?” Shangri-La isn’t a bad album, it just seems that YACHT didn’t try to expand their sound. It almost seems the album was written, recorded and packaged with the thought, “if we do exactly what we did the last album, everyone will be happy and nobody will notice.”

I don’t hate YACHT, though. I got into YACHT out of the ordinary: They headlined a street festival in Chicago last year. I had never heard them and became a fan halfway through the first song. All of the songs they played that night were from See Mystery Lights.

It isn’t technically fair to say YACHT made a bad album, but there just isn’t that much that is different from See Mystery Lights. Although the songs are not 100% identical, anyone besides a heavily involved YACHT fan wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the songs.

“One Step” sounds like this new album’s version of “Psychic City” with not just the instrumentals and studio production, but even with the songwriting, too.

“Holy Roller” sounds like frontman Jona’s other project, The Blow, and their single, “Hey Boy.” The bass line and snapping fingers of percussion could almost be interchanged. You could sing the lyrics of “Hey Boy” over the instrumentals of “Holy Roller” and the song would be the same.

“Love in the Dark,” sticks out as this album’s winner, even though it isn’t as catchy and addicting as the songs on See Mystery Lights were on first listen. Instead the album grows on you, unlike See Mystery Lights, which flash faded a little with each listen. Although the songs don’t seem as catchy, they have more replay ability than See Mystery Lights, even if they do at first glance sound almost identical at parts, and to be honest, maybe that is exactly what some YACHT fans were looking for.

The album isn’t all filler, though. “I Walked Alone” has some guitar shredding that is a sweet addition to the small instrumental breaks that are characteristic of YACHT’s musical style. The only problem that is, I want more from them like this on the album. Listeners crave more explosions of creativity that weren’t on previous YACHT’s albums and a 30 second guitar “solo” doesn’t make up for a whole album of stuff we’ve heard before. What appears to be a fear to expand isn’t a new thing to musicians, fans or even record label executives.

There’s just one thing I can’t overlook about this ‘”same songs/different album syndrome” that YACHT is apparently inflicted with. I can understand that many punk/rock/indie bands have no money, equipment or notoriety. But when you are a one-man band, like YACHT was for a while, and you add your new girlfriend as the singer, coupled with the fact that you got in trouble for bit.torrenting Pro-Tools on the internet, it makes no sense that you spend a few years writing an album with songs that are almost beat-for-beat identical to side-projects and previous albums.

YACHT – Shangri-La Tracklist:

  1. “Utopia”
  2. “Dystopia (The Earth Is On Fire)”
  3. “I Walked Alone”
  4. “Love in the Dark”
  5. “One Step”
  6. “Holy Roller”
  7. “Beam Me Up”
  8. “Paradise Engineering”
  9. “Tripped and Fell In Love”
  10. “Shangri-La”