Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Yam Haus - Stargazer (2018)



Written by Shannon Cowden, posted by blog admin

Yam Haus’ Stargazer begins with its powerful title track and it serves notice that the young Minneapolis based outfit means business. The pulsing synthesizer opening “Stargazer” soon transitions into sharply crafted verses driven by jagged bright guitar and straight ahead percussion. Lead singer Lars Pruitt makes the most from the band’s flair with a good chorus and helps “Stargazer” reach stratospheric heights. “West Coast” doesn’t have quite the same panache with a more diffuse chorus, but the vocal melody keeps things beguiling for listeners and the song has a trademark unity that makes it a deeply enjoyable listening experience, but the third song in Stargazer’s opening trio “Kingdom” brings audiences another indelible chorus and some particularly Eighties touches thanks to the song’s synthesizer adornments.

It’s impossible to get away from how well recorded and produced Yam Haus’ debut is. Stargazer highlights a band with a diverse sound, but the production expertly balances and separates the instruments in each respective song and renders the band’s musical vision in high gloss musical Technicolor. The album’s fourth song is well in keeping with the pop inclinations of the opening trio – “Get Somewhere” has some especially tasty verses, but the real pay off comes with the song’s chorus and it undeniably connects with listeners. Yam Haus introduces some piano into “Too Many People” and the gospel influences rife throughout the tune never strike a false note and Pruitt responds with a lot of soulfulness. The accompanying handclaps are another humanizing element of the song moving it away from the electronic flourishes running through the earlier songs and this more stripped down, traditional approach rings true.

“Right Now, Forever” flips the script for anyone listening to every track up to this point. Yam Haus completely backs away from the template of the previous five songs in favor of a delicately constructed acoustic performance and Pruitt adjusts his voice accordingly. It strikes a sharp contrast with its follow up, “You Need Love (Stargazer Reprise)”, but this reprise veers away from aping the title track and, instead, develops similar themes in a different musical fashion. “Bad News” returns them to the familiar ground of pop songwriting craftsmanship and they deliver again, but the vocal melody is especially memorable and Pruitt capitalizes on its potential.

They orchestrate an entertaining, compelling build for the track “Carry Me Home” and Pruitt delivers a singing performance exploring the full range of his voice’s dynamic possibilities. His seamless shifting through varying levels of his register undoubtedly benefits from the presence of recording technology, but there’s no indication in the recording that Pruitt would struggle reproducing this in a live setting.

The band’s two guitar punch comes to the forefront with the album’s one indisputable rocker “We Are the Storm”, but they quickly prove they don’t succumb to six string self indulgence even when they let that side of their musical character rise to the surface. Instead, it has a sinewy and confident texture that draws you in from the first. Yam Haus improbably ends Stargazer with the near-folky strands of “Something Better” and the minimal accompaniment playing alongside Pruitt’s voice and the band’s acoustic guitar fleshes out the song just enough to help it sink deeper into your consciousness. It’s a gentle, profoundly evocative closer for Stargazer, one of the most satisfying releases in recent memory, not just 2018.

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Yam Haus - Stargazer (2018)

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