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Posted on June 23rd, 2015 (2:00 pm) by Nick Manai

Cayucas’s second album for Secretly Canadian, Dancing at the Blue Lagoon bills itself as a summer pop record (the press release points out its “sun-drenched, jangly, California vibes”). Certainly the title is evocative of a warmth and mysticism that sets in after dusk somewhere in Southern California, but in reality this record is haunted by a perpetual unease, a questioning anxiousness that is more tends to pander probe an atmosphere like “The Blue Lagoon” rather than frolic in it. Especially at the albums opening, tracks like “Big Winter Jacket” and “Moony Eyed Walrus” are weighed down by obstinate phrasing that sounds positively difficult and accomplished, sometimes impressively so.

Generically speaking, Cayucas make well-crafted pop music that is so practiced it stops feeling like pop music all together. They share a lot with fellow Californians Local Natives, both bands using baroque textures and strings to craft atmosphere the way folk singers use harmonies. Cayucas tend to seek less inspiration in rhythm than the latter and they are also without Grizzly Bear-style roving experimentalism, another band known for its precise arrangements and echoing, cathedral pitches. Theirs is a platform more suited for singer-songwriter festivals; see “Ditches,” whose flutes and rippling drums are some of the more pleasant musical additions to the album. Unfortunately, the lush instrumentation adds a forced bravado to the chorus which doesn’t carry enough weight on its shoulders, sounding limited and unrealized by comparison.

When Cayucas are at their best, you feel like they are stepping out from behind the need to tell you something serious and into a new cavern of possibility. The opening jangle to the title track sounds almost foolishly mimetic of different forms from a “non-white” music historiography. Yet, its pseudo-cheesiness starts to endear itself to you, like a friendly handshake that just wants to meet you halfway, offering one of the more sunny-side up offering on Blue Lagoon and complimentary thin lyrics: “The long and windy road/ Feel the wind blowing in/ Dusty drive.”

A contrast to the technical harmonies of the album's openings comes on “A Shadow in the Dark.” It doesn’t take much to hear the cues that were taken from Vampire Weekend, and Zach Yubin’s announcement that there might be “a shadow in the dark” sounds harmless as long as the search is a good time. There is something unexplainable underneath these long sunny days, and nowhere does that depth intrigue more as when it is balanced with such a simple and rhythmic chorus.

Track List:

  1. Big Winter Jacket
  2. Moony Eyed Walrus
  3. Hella
  4. Champion
  5. Ditches
  6. Dancing at the Blue Lagoon
  7. Backstroke
  8. A Shadow in the Dark
  9. Blue Lagoon (Theme Song)
Cayucas: Dancing At The Blue Lagoon
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

68 / 100
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