It must be a daunting task for any band to piece together the follow-up to an album as excellent and as critically praised as YACHT’s See Mystery Lights. There’s definite expectation; standards to be maintained and sonic progression to be explored – listeners demand it. It’s a delicate balance and one that can tip over into weird, wonderful or truly horrific places if it’s not found.
Shangri-La, as the title hints at, finds the Portland-based duo shifting their sights from the futuristic undertones of its predecessor towards something more mystical; an earthly paradise. Given the nature of the topic and the fact it’s explored in some shape or form on each of the LP’s 10 tracks, it has the potential to descend into arsey concept album territory, but YACHT manage to dodge that particular bullet; something they do by focusing attention on the rhythm and keeping the lyrical content direct. The result is a string of delectable, bouncy floorfillers like ‘Dystopia’, ‘Holy Roller’ and ‘Paradise Engineering’ that touch upon Orwellian scenarios and visions of ideal living.
But it’s not all plain sailing because, while it has plenty of high points, Shangri-La also has its fair share of filler. Opening track ‘Utopia’ is a prime culprit, as is ‘One Step’ and ‘Tripped And Fell In Love’. They’re not bad songs as such – sharing much in common with the more memorable points on the album – but they lack the same sense of purpose, leaving you with the feeling that whatever ideas inspired them weren’t fully formed.
It’s a pity that in their quest for cohesiveness and continuity in the album as a whole that YACHT should drop the ball as often as they do when approaching the individual tracks because, when they do nail it, there are songs on Shangri-La that are amongst the best the band has yet produced. Hearing the LP and realising this is a fist-clenchingly frustrating experience that leaves the listener with some of those awful ‘what if…?’ questions: What if they’d been more consistent? What if they’d whittled it down to create one hell of an EP? Instead, it’s something of a missed opportunity; an album you can delve in and out of and enjoy the parts you want to, but doesn’t quite work the way it was intended.