Album Review: A Yawn Worth Yelling – Play Pretend
Imagine the most infectious, courageous, and powerful pop rock hook you’ve ever heard… maybe it’s from U2 or some big arena rock band, right? Then add a nice sort of slick pop punk vocal to it. However light and airy the music is that you’re picturing right now, give it some bottom, too. Think about a Pacific Ocean cool breeze. Did that chill it down enough for you? Congrats. You’ve arrived with a band called A Yawn Worth Yelling. If delicious had a sound, it’s these guys.
The first track on Play Pretend is an addictively upbeat number called “Start Somewhere.” It’s about the early stages of a relationship trying to determine how to proceed. “There’s no telling where your heart is, but you gotta start somewhere.” It’s such a relatable place, too. Anyone who has taken that “leap of faith” for a new relationship knows the feeling. Heck, half the “butterflies” people feel for a new mate is in the wonder of whether it will work. This song captures that magnetic feeling extremely well.
“Lonely Prisoner” is no less fun and engaging. It really reminds me of something Matt Thiessen and Relient K might have put out (which is extremely high praise from me). The song’s structure is almost understated in its brilliance. The lyrical content is about someone who is trapped inside of themselves, but the musical content shifts time signature and style in a few different locations. It has an underlying pop punk feeling, but also slides into more conventional rock and even some syncopated sections that feel a bit like jazz. There are some accomplished musicians working on this jam, for sure. Oh and you almost forget that nearly every lyric on the track is delivered in two or three-part harmony – flawless, at that.
The next track “Empty Space” is crisp and cool. Remember that cool Pacific breeze I conjured earlier? You need it here. Seriously you might need a hoodie to even listen to this one. It’ll send chills up and down your spine. “In between the stars it’s just empty space…” See that? It’s philosophy. Heck, it’s epistemology. It’s about contemplating what we do in life and the important decisions we make. But it’s packaged in this sort of lackadaisical mode, even though we’ve all had these kinds of deep existential questions. Why do we matter? If there’s nothing between the stars, what of our “idle time” and the substance of our lives? There’s this rapid singing on the bridge that is unlike anything I’ve ever heard. You just need to hear it.
“Missing Ember”’s main lyric is “I saw the Millennium Falcon.” So maybe these guys don’t take themselves too seriously. What I like about the song, though, is that Brayden Deskins’ lead vocals absolutely soar. And then we get to the last song on the album, which would have been totally acceptable to mail in after a great album. But “Gotta Go” is the MAGNUM OPUS of this freaking album. I mean, it’s an amazing track. Talk about complexity – I literally lost count of the time signature changes. The harmonies might be the best on the album. It is an absolutely stunning track. Seriously stop reading and just listen to the song right now.
I don’t use the term “genius” for bands all that often, but the masterminds of Deskins, Tyler Boyd, Taylor Stover, and Johannes Heine seriously are accomplished musicians. This is not just the kind of music that you want to listen to. You really want to soak into this stuff and allow it to change the way you think and feel. The album is charged with a variety of emotions, sure, but it’s also about the most captivating set of modern compositional elements I’ve heard. When people talk about “experimental” music they usually mean quirky time and key elements with outrageous instrumentation; but A Yawn Worth Yelling is experimental in the most complimentary way possible. This is a phenomenal EP and even though it released in late 2015, I’m short listing it as one of the top albums of 2016. This is not the last time you will hear about this band. If you’re DJing an indie rock radio station, you should be spinning these guys at every turn.