I Believe in You. Your Magic is Real
ona Bechtolt is an amiable fellow, evident from the opening seconds of his solid second release from Marriage Records. The pitter-patter guitar loop of opener “So Post ‘Em All” is just the kind of delicacy one would expect from the robust beat-maker of the Blow’s fine 2006 release Paper Television: here is where YACHT strikes out with his most definitive and personal album, its ruminations, advice-givings, and shout-outs making the work one of the most cheerful, inclusive solo releases in the genre. The playful album covers of his previous releases are replaced with a stern, candid photograph of the artist in shadow. The title is a strong statement that predicts the happy, honest tone of each song. And they are love tributes: general and personal, precisely and meticulously trendy. But it isn’t a crime for positive music to be trendy; we desire fun, song, and dance, and Bechtolt wants it as much as we do.
“Do what you love / Love what you do” is the kind of inspirational lyric that Bechtolt regularly injects in a jittery mix of analog synths, fluttering beats, and rabid drum kits. “The Magic Beat” is too cheerful by its lyrics, but the delivery of those lyrics (a chorus of shouts) is as powerfully energetic as the beat itself, which like any fine club cut snakes through a dozen episodes of breakdown, repose, build-up, and vaguely discernible chorus. But the club (house, loft, tanker, dumpster) is not the only space YACHT’s music appeals to. The messy, sad a capella of “Drawing in the Dark” sees Bechtolt flirting with the brightly-lit, emo melody of his opener. But it’s only a minute before he decides to distort the vocals, add a plodding, industrial beat, and slow everything down, as if ridiculing his own sentimentality and watching it disintegrate and grind to a halt with a grin on his face. As he brandishes his recipes, most riotously on the lovely cacophonies of “It’s All the Same Price” and the delicious Stephin Merritty instrumental “If Music Could Cure All That Ails You,” he’s glorifying not only the element of enjoyment in the sound of the music, but the joy of creation: this-all can be made, destroyed, tweaked, and poked with endlessly surprising and amusing results. (See also: Deacon, Dan.)
The biggest accomplishment here is “See a Penny (Pick It Up),” a widely circulating single that Bechtolt has described as completely different from anything else on the album. But this may turn out to be an exaggeration as the album sinks further into our senses. The reality is that “Penny” temporarily overshadows the rest for being so easily addictive: deploy a nostalgic “Knight Rider” bass and you’re guaranteed many a sweaty twenty-something will head-nod. Add the mundane lyric, “See a penny pick it up / and all day you’ll have good luck, uh-huh,” and you have a song that is perfectly retarded and sexy, the mesmerizing sounds grinding and pulsating alongside the tongue-in-cheek message.
Not entirely impressive is the derivative synth build-up on “Platinum,” which borrows too much from Herr Soundsystem and injects more self-help fare for the refrain, “If you say it out loud / You can make it happen.” But clearly there’s something excellent about raucous beat-making and positive thinking: why shouldn’t the two go hand in hand? The Blow’s music can sometimes sound like a complete disjuncture, depressing anecdotes about relationships lightened and even a little dumbed down by the accompaniment of energetic beats that are impossible not to move to. Bechtolt sees that it works more consistently the other way around: a gleefully self-aware artist speaking kind words to his generation while harnessing the power of their dance moves. By nature indie electronic music begs to include, outstretching its arms to a distracted, ecstatic mass of hipsters. But YACHT steps further into accessibility by staying as far away from the center ring as possible, following a de rigueur mantra: ‘tis better to be entrenched in the crowd with a few thousand of one’s closest friends.