A concept album designed for the dancefloor, which no listener needs a degree to unravel.
Jen Long 2011-07-07
The concept album can be a dangerous format to contemplate. Push it too far and songs become nothing more than templates hungrily awaiting exposition. Weave the strings too loose, though, and your work can fall into a confusing mess of ideas.
YACHT has never been a band shy on concepts. From recording previous LP See Mystery Lights under the ghost-lit sky of Marfa, Texas to delivering their backing band under the suited guise of The Straight Gaze, core duo Jona Bechtolt and Claire Evans know how well placed a tongue in cheek can be.
With Shangri-La they run their shimmering disco alongside the concept of Utopia, a narrator mapping the path between tracks. It’s an ideology far closer to the origins of disco’s message than it is a move to the obscure: a genre of music born out of the idea to unite everyone together on the dancefloor. YACHT simply work their kitsch lyrics and synthetic tones to translate this to modern-day comment.
Although none of this intellectualising really matters when you deliver an album that’s so fun, pop, and polished. Shangri-La is full of wilful abandonment, from cheap twists to knowing words: "The Earth, the Earth, the Earth is on fire / We don’t have no daughter, let the motherf***er burn" (Dystopia).
But while all this plays out, the songwriting and production hold such a strong and stable role that the album never really loses its course. The drums are crisp and metronomic, the synths slug and peak against each other, and the hooks are so sharp they defy even the hardest of hearts. The title-track is so annoying it remains lodged in the mind for a week after listening.
On Shangri-La YACHT have proven that no matter what the concept is, it always comes down to the music.