Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Record Review: Yawn - 'Open Season'

By Andrew Hertzberg

Over the past year, Yawn has opened for a veritable who’s who in indie rock. Tanlines, Yeasayer, Delorean, Local Natives…the list goes on. Each of these bands has their own sound, yet there are two themes common to them all: layers and percussion. Which makes it no surprise that a band like Yawn would be a fitting opener to these bands in a live setting. Most of their hype came from the free online download of the eponymous EP released nearly two years ago. They’ve remained a bit quiet since, shooting a couple videos, playing sporadically, and frustratingly not updating their website for a bit (grrrr). But now, we finally have their full length debut, Open Season. Knowing what they’re capable of with undeniable tunes like "Kind of Guy" and "David," let’s continue with the hunting metaphor and take aim at the LP. 

Overall, the album contains a very fluid yet cohesive sound. That’s not to say it gets to the point of redundancy, but it does make track differentiation difficult at points. The waves between the first two tracks "Keepup" and "Take it With Me" illustrate this fluidity aurally. Right off the bat, we notice an even more layered and excessive sound compared to their EP. The one band that now starts to stick out in comparison over the initial Animal Collective point of reference is Of Montreal, equally layered but more groovy and head-bob inducing. But unlike recent Of Montreal efforts, the sound is not that fractured. However, the oddity is still there: for instance, third track "Yumyum" with its overpitched vocals and hypnotic throat clearing drumbeat which is almost impossible to get out of your head. To say the least, this track is delicious. This one or the insanely '80s danceable "Gasoline" would have been the more obvious choices for a single. Rather, the band decided on "Acid" being the leadout track to introduce to new listeners. It’s an interesting choice to challenge their audience with an unstructured, very experimental track, its title more in reference to the mind expanding substance as opposed to the material decaying one. 

The second half of the album is unfortunately less hitting. It’s where the aforementioned cohesive and fluid characteristics begin to become a hindrance as opposed to an asset (unlike the EP). Post-"Gasoline," it almost feels like we restarted the album, becoming awash in the tribal layers, becoming lost and not grasping the full concept behind Yawn’s genius. There are of course exceptions. "Astral Observatory" creates an ominous atmosphere, becoming more psychedelic and confounding than "Acid" even. "Indigo" focuses on a tropical sounding guitar lead to get the track going and closing bassline that proves (if there was still any doubt) Yawn to be a band that actually knows how to handle (gasp!) real life instruments.

Despite a sense of monotony toward the end of the album and obvious points of reference, there are glimmering moments of gold, and more important, originality hidden within the layers of the album. However, sharp transitions mean you need to be on your toes to catch ‘em. "Never Knew" is a short track but has a catchy guitarline nonetheless. That’s actually what impresses me most about the album: it finds the intersection between the complex realm of layered processing with the natural feel of creating an aurally and simply pleasant riff or bassline accompanied by an appropriate drumbeat. “Mama, don’t be scared for me,” they sing on the cathartic finale "Rainy Nights" a near power pop ballad that ignores the hedonistic layering of the rest of the album to just rock out to finish things off. To be sure, none of us are worried, and the future is looking good for Yawn.

Yawn’s record release for Open Season is tonight, August 30th, at Schubas (8 PM, $10, 18+) with Magic City. Too short notice? Catch ‘em at the Metro on September 30th opening for Mates of States and Suckers or at the Vic November 26th opening for the Kooks.


  1. as far as I can tell "most of their hype" comes from really persistent PR. "Despite a sense of monotony" says it all -- these guys have bored me to tears with generic songs, average talent and zero charisma every time I've seen them. Don't feel the need to sugarcoat for the reader's sake with "glimmering moments of gold."

  2. oh shit, and you actually call them "genius" at one point. C'mon now, how can a band of such "monotony" demonstrate genius?

  3. I don't know, Mike. Even thought I agree about the album getting monotonous at points, I also agree about there being "glimmering moments of gold." Why can't both be true?

  4. Very true about persistent PR, but I've been listening to these guys before I was anywhere near writing for this site, and before I got on all the PR blast lists. In retrospect, genius may have been a bit much, but they are one of the few bands recently that have really stood out to me. I've only been able to catch 'em live once myself, thought they played solid, despite a nearly empty room.

  5. Calm your tits Mike, the album is good, I got it from a fake centipede hz album and thought it was the real deal. When I realized it was a fake I listened to the real centipede, but I like this one better.