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. She articulates her wry humor more clearly here, and dips into new reserves of camp and bare-naked desire. There’s a song called “I Wanna Fuck You Til I’m Dead” that serves up exactly what it says on the label, albeit with a shade more empathy and less posturing than Miley Cyrus or Peaches. YACHT isn’t out for shock, even if they want to inspire a few double-takes. They’re here to make high-concept pop with easy entry points, to ruminate on the future without getting bogged down in nihilism.
The fact that they manage to have so much fun while pondering the extinction of the human race is testament to Evans and Bechtolt’s skill as songwriters. Eight-minute opener “Miles & Miles” goes long on the inevitable heat death of the universe, of the futility of a universal timeline to measure the impact of humanity’s existence. “We’re born, we live, we die,” repeats Evans, vaguely echoing David Byrne’s bewildered “same as it ever was” from “Once in a Lifetime”. Things happen like they’ve always happened, and one day they’ll stop, and maybe there’s a comfort in knowing this huge story has an endpoint.
Evans touches on time’s relationship to capital most clearly on “Matter”, where she concludes that “the future’s all undistributed,” as though the wealth of what’s yet to come could still land in the hands of those who have spent their lives hoarding the present. Other songs expound on time’s stampede in more concrete terms. The record’s title track stacks our technology-addled present up next to retro-futurist visions, offering little commentary on the discrepancy beyond limp disappointment: “I thought the brave world would be newer.” But she sings to an undeniable neo-disco thump, and that muted cynicism comes through like a call to arms.
For an album all about the now, the Le Tigre-mimicking “Ringtone” comes off strangely dated, like it could have been culled from peak electroclash, back when Nokia was still an industry leader. Centering a pop tune on cell phones (and talking on them, of all things) is an impulse old enough to be anachronistic, but maybe that’s the point — maybe YACHT’s shoving the word “ringtone” back in our lexicon just to prove how quickly our cultural touchstones fade. But that layer of irony doesn’t make the song’s sing-scream chorus any hookier.
With its light political overtones and glossy uptempo production, Future offers just about the best time you can have inside a fit of existential dread. Even if she doesn’t believe in the future, Evans believes in people, in the mythologies webbed between them that make life more bearable. “Don’t tell me there’s no face on the moon,” she pleads on the jittery “Don’t Be Rude”. “That the air in the sky isn’t blue/ That there’s nothing that’s left for our two hearts to prove.” YACHT balances its snark with just enough warmth to keep its dystopian dreams engaging. If we won’t make it out alive, at least we can dance while we’re here.
Essential Tracks: “Miles & Miles”, “I Thought the Future Would Be Cooler”, and “Don’t Be Rude”