Heavy themes shared through happy music presents a strange contradiction, yet this is exactly what we expect from YACHT. YACHT makes electropop/electrorock dance music but stands for much more — literally. YACHT is an acronym for Young Americans Challenging High Technology. The band, by way of their YACHT mission, seek to find the meaning of life through creative processes. Their music touches on themes of utopia and the afterlife while simultaneously expressing their opinion on how we should be spending the “now. ” And their latest album, Shangri-La, shows YACHT in full force.
The band YACHT began with Jonah Bechtolt, formerly of The Blow, making beats on his computer. As YACHT evolved, the tracks became more electro-pop/rock than experimental electronic and gained an added layer of vocals. Claire Evans joined the group in 2009 after having guested on a few tracks; Shangri-La is her second album with YACHT. Her contributions have been tremendous — her vocals compliment Bechtolt’s and complete the songs, her performing abilities turn YACHT into a new version of the Talking Heads, and her personality fits right in with Bechtolt’s theories and quirks. Shangri-Lais the culmination of this collaboration.
The opening track, “Utopia”, discusses creating a new future or afterlife: “there is no future/ it’s up to us to make/ Utopia.” This idea is prevalent throughout the album on tracks like “Paradise Engineering.” Evans is creating whatever type of world she or the listener likes through her lyrics; she states “if you want me to be your God/ I will be your God.” The idea of a utopian paradise or afterlife without a traditional religious byway is very YACHT-esque. Whether they are serious about gaining followers that are more than music fans or not, YACHT seem to looks at their view of life as a form of religion.
The subject is broached again in the almost-whompy “Holy Roller,” where Evans advises us “don’t you worry about God up above/ we’re going to live life in love.” YACHT believe the way to paradise is through enjoying life and seeking new creative experiences that may bring one closer to some sort of epiphany. Sounds like a good deal to me.
In “Dystopia,” a hellscape that is meant to be the present day is described. This track, because of its content and dance-ability, reminds me of Gorillaz’s 2010 release Plastic Beach. It is incredibly catchy and still touches on some of the serious issues that face us today. However, “Dystopia” is no call to arms. Evans’ theory on how to deal with the present day is a direct parody of Rock Master Scott & The Dynamic Three/The Bloodhound Gang: “the Earth, the Earth, the Earth is on fire/ we don’t have no daughter/ let the motherfucker burn.” So as long as we aren’t invested in the future of Earth, let’s have fun. YACHT provides us with the perfect soundtrack to do so.
The closing title track, “Shangri-La,” is the perfect ending. It gives you that feeling you get when you’ve just seen a really good movie and you’re staying to watch the credits roll. Bechtolt and Evans’ conclusion to all of these philosophical questions is “if I can’t go to heaven/ let me go to L.A./ Shangri-La la la-la-la-la-la-la-la” — because apparently Los Angeles is where we can find a modern-day utopian paradise. Even if L.A. isn’t your jam, Shangri-La is a great album because of its cohesive complexity and its awesome dance tunes. Plus there is a song called “Beam Me Up,” and you can never go wrong with a Star Trek reference, especially on an album that bears a striking resemblance to the Genesis world of Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Kahn and Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. Live long and prosper. And hope YACHT finds us the answers we’ve all been searching for.
Stream: “Utopia” MP3
Stream: “Paradise Engineering”
Stream: “I Walked Alone”