Written by Mike Yoder, posted by blog admin
Yam Haus’ debut full length Stargazer possesses a remarkable completeness quite unlike anything you’ll hear in any style this year. Their embrace of electronic instruments, particularly synthesizer, naturally risks accusations of artificiality, but the Minneapolis based four piece successfully integrates keyboards and synthesizer with a guitar sound that takes a number of surprising twists and turns along the way. You can’t easily pigeonhole Yam Haus. They begin the album, however, with a string of five star pop rock tracks as polished as one can hope for. The opener and title song “Stargazer” introduces us to the band’s grandiose pop structures but, despite the obvious sweep inherent to the material, you never get a sense of the band lapsing into overwrought histrionics.
As stylish as the first song is, “West Coast” is even more so. They cop to an obvious Eighties influence during songs like this, but they mix it up with a thoroughly modern guitar presentation nicely ornamenting the electronic aspects of their style. The personal qualities of the songs, reflected through the lyrics, aren’t diluted in any way by the presentation. “Kingdom”, the final song of the album’s initial run of pop rock gems, has the same chorus strength we hear with the aforementioned two songs and yet another variation on their ability for pairing guitar with keyboards makes this is a winning number. They strike up an improbable gospel influence with the song “Too Many People” and lead singer Lars Pruitt’s voice plays off quite well against the song’s piano. The chorus immediately connects with listeners and the backing vocals bring an added sweetness to the song, but it’s the discreet guitar fills along the way bringing crucial colors into the song’s sound.
“Bad News” has a moody tenor despite its strong percussive pulse and electronic instrumentation. There’s some lightly played funk flavored guitar running throughout the song that never announces itself in the mix and Pruitt delivers one of the album’s most soulful performances. The bridge is especially notable thanks to how well it incorporates vocals with the song’s pop texture. Piano once again makes its presence felt with notable effect. “We Are the Storm” has a palpable rock edginess missing from the aforementioned songs and the tense guitar work during the verses memorably explodes with the chorus. Post-production effects lend a near claustrophobic quality to Pruitt’s singing that’s particularly entertaining.
Vocal presentation is important for the song “This Won’t Be the Last Time”, but the song lives and dies on the back of Lars Pruitt’s lead vocal. He has an effortless command of pop music formulas without ever sounding too clichéd and much of that comes from his obvious emotional connection to the material. “Groovin’ (That Feel Good Song)” certainly lives up to its billing as one of the more relentlessly positive, upbeat recordings included on Stargazer and other bands might have ended the release on this note, but Yam Haus clearly has higher intentions. Those are manifested with the album’s acoustic curtain “Something Better”, but Yam Haus artfully adorns the closing with a number of tasteful instrumental flourishes never subtracting from the essentially intimate nature of the performance. It’s a wholly satisfying conclusion for this great album.