On their sophomore LP, Love Chills, Chicago quartet YAWN continue to define their smooth, beguiling psych pop sound, one that’s adorable enough to pass for a stuffed Animal Collective though rarely as cloying as that might imply. Instead, the LP bubbles with a passionate sincerity filled with interstellar twitches and triumphant hooks. In the end, though, the journey never feels like it quite leaves sight of home, taking concentric circles around a single formula.
The squiggly synth trails and gear-shifting guitar on “Flytrap” start and stop between fluorescent twee and indie rock swagger. YAWN prides itself on syrup-fueled genre adventurism, and the hook easily grabs the stars it reaches for. Similarly, opener “Under the She” is a spacey head-bobber, and its notes about lips being soaked in lye and no longer feeling a lost love’s body shake explain the bleary-eyed intensity.
Though the upturned falsetto at the end of certain lines on “Summer Heat” echoes Animal Collective’s “Banshee Beat” a little too closely, the ultra-gloss production choices (string runs, piano slides, elephant-stomp percussion) lend an intriguing orchestral glamor. Similarly, “What’s in the World” lifts itself out of new wave revival with a choppy surf of electronic noise and a comfort with empty spaces, letting more of YAWN’s tight harmonies travel through the wormholes. Much like “Under the She”, this one hides lyrical darkness in plain sight; the seemingly upbeat track focuses on something “choking me ’til I die.”
That ability to easily juxtapose seemingly unrelated tonal elements provides YAWN with their best moments. The simple down-escalator ripple of the chorus to “Wasting, Waiting” segues into lush verses and back again without missing a beat. “Mylene” pairs exceptionally elongated vowels with stuttered, sharp-tongued guitar picks, and the glittery carnival ride of “Follow You” shivers acoustic and electric guitar, shaker, and other assorted percussive sounds into one circular riff. The album does fall into patterns during a single sitting, though: long harmonies, bouncy gamboling, change paths, repeat. Maybe YAWN would be better off shaking up the structures that contain their already diverse results.
Essential Tracks: “Flytrap”, “What’s in the World”, and “Under the She”