Thursday, June 2, 2011

EP review: Yourself and the Air - "Who's Who in the Zoo"

Posted by Sasha Geffen

Well, kids, it's summer. Some of us are done with school for the year, while others are just glad to have thawed from Chicago's wintry brutality. It's warm enough to go swimming in the lake and lie on the grass and fly kites and get sunburned. And what better accompaniment is there to this seasonal levity than seven tracks of breezy psychedelic goodness?

The latest EP from lower west siders Yourself and the Air is as summery as summer gets. Infused with an irreverent glee, Who's Who in the Zoo manages to carry plenty of quirk while never veering into deliberately abstruse territory. The record plays a bit like Animal Collective calmed down a bit; there's the same Pixies-rooted stop-and-go dynamic in these songs, but without the bald-faced mania that characterizes the indie world's premiere folktronica darlings. YATA seeks to build songs to rolling momentums, not to shred them up and throw them in the air like confetti. Tracks like "Trampoline" and "Bon Voyage" never stagnate or scatter, but point themselves to the finish and snowball all the way there. The focus of whimsy is a delight to hear.

Zoo rests on subtle notes of nostalgia-perforated ennui with the slow build of "Bicycles Plus." A fog of trilled guitars and reverb rises around the tangibly yearning vocals. The warm haze resolves itself in the last minute and a half of this nearly seven minute track as the drums pick up under wordless howls. Even at its heaviest, the record retains the playfulness it later refines with the bubbly "Colors Alive" and "The Oracle." Zoo builds its inner worlds with only subtle augmentations to the standard rock instrumentation; synths zip in and there's even a harmonica here and there, but YATA seems more committed to harnessing guitars to build up their own airy textures.

Alternately effervescent and mellow, Who's Who in the Zoo beautifully encapsulates that gentle yearning of vernal nostalgia. Be sure to play this tight package of hazy quirkpop against the better parts of your summer.

Yourself and the Air will play their record release show at Subterranean on Saturday, June 18th. Check out the video for "Sick Days" here:

Check out more record reviews:
Bailiff - Red Balloon 

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