Release Date: Oct 16, 2015
Record label: Downtown
Given that YACHT recorded two albums for James Murphy’s DFA label, it should come as no surprise that the ideas behind their latest record I Thought The Future Would Be Cooler take aim at the future. Does anything, for example, sound like the noise of the future as much as punky dance-pop? That’s up for debate but it certainly lends itself to the idea of looking forward and suits the themes of the album. On paper, it’s all very promising.
Shangri-La, the 2011 album by the Los Angeles by way of Portland outfit YACHT, is a case where the live experience and the studio recording noticeably diverge. I had the privilege of catching YACHT open for Hot Chip in 2012 at Portland’s Crystal Ballroom for the latter group’s In Our Heads tour, and while each set was impressive in its own right, YACHT pulled off a real feat in matching Hot Chip at every level. This is all the more impressive considering that they were only allotted a performance a third of the headliner’s time.
Their 2011 album Shangri-La was where the duo of Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans stopped being serious and became a sleek dance music-making machine instead. Jumping ahead a few years to their 2015 record I Thought the Future Would Be Cooler, YACHT have gone even further in a pop direction and become happy purveyors of pumped-up, slicked-back jams that range from Sugar Ray-inspired tracks like the bouncing "I Wanna Fuck You Till I'm Dead" to robotic reggae ("White Mirror"), glittering '80s-lite electro-pop ("Don't Be Rude"), and stomping glam disco (the title track), with a main focus on the type of floor-filling electro-disco bangers that Donna Summer or Debbie Harry or Scissor Sisters would be happy to add to their repertoire.
Claire L. Evans can’t even dance without one eye on the apocalypse. Every hook she pronounces on YACHT’s new album is ringed with a sparkling fatalism, a sense that no matter how much fun we might be having here in the moment, one day, there’ll be no one left to have any fun at all. I Thought the Future Would Be Cooler intensifies the brash, unyielding europop Evans solidified with her bandmate Jona Bechtolt on 2011’s Shangri-La.
In a time when technology perhaps hinders the quality of life as much as it helps it, Claire L. Evans and Jona Bechtolt have every reason to wish the future were cooler. Their sixth record as YACHT (and third with Evans as a full member) isn't so much about civilization's lack of robot servants and flying cars, but rather how the future is much darker than we once believed it could be.
I Thought the Future Would Be Cooler somehow crosses the levity of Ric Ocasek with the gravity of Annie Lennox to give us a pretty freaking spot-on document of a life spent online set to a robotic New Wave beat. This immaculate nugget of poppy perfection is almost too clinical for its own good and aesthetically, that's not inappropriate. This is Internet music—complex, byzantine, and even nonsensical sentiments buried beneath clean, innocuous interfaces.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. It has been four year's since YACHT released Shangri-La on James Murphy's DFA label and there have been a few adjustments. The most prominent of these is that Claire L. Evans, a woman the New York Times once described as a "neo-Annie Lennox," is the group's sole lead singer.
YACHT came out of Portland in the mid-'00s as a pair of smart synth-pop noodlers with some cute, crinkly beats and a wide-eyed vibe that can even make worry sound vaguely blissful. Their most popular song, 2011's "Dystopia (The Earth Is on Fire)" turned the end of all things into resigned fun. Over the years, they've relocated to Los Angeles and developed from a duo into a band, with a sound that's gone beyond blippy computer jams like 2007's great "See A Penny (Pick It Up)" to the smoother, more full-bodied organic tunes on their last album 2011's Shangri-La, which featured "Dystopia" and had a free-rolling disco buoyance to fit its title.
Claire L. Evans is as fascinated by and enamored with ideas of "the future" as she is skeptical and critical of them. She's an ardent "science fiction apologist," a busy writer, an editor at VICE's science and tech journal Motherboard, and a co-creator of 5 Every Day, an app that provides users with "a no-nonsense events calendar and exploration engine" in and around Los Angeles.