Album Reviews

Yeti Lane – Yeti Lane

(Sonic Cathedral) UK release date: 25 January 2010

From the remnants of the space-folk psychedelic outfit Cyann & Ben come Yeti Lane, who’ve crafted a new sound sans spacey and created a standout shoegaze monolith rife with droning guitars, vintage analogue synths and a sound that stretches the limits of their mere three pieces. And these Parisians accomplish all this while managing to keep things both infectiously pop-oriented and charmingly lazy – so much so that comparisons to Pavement’s seminal debut don’t seem to be much of a stretch.

Yeti Lane’s self-titled debut was prefaced by the powerhouse single Lonesome George (itself a winding narrative of the hardships of the last surviving tortoise on Pinta Island), which at once sets the tone for the record (sort of) but also sets such an impossible benchmark that the rest of the album’s 10 tracks pale a bit in comparison. Only a bit, mind; they’re still fantastic.

Lonesome George opens with the sort of sweeping, looped, frenetic analogue synth runs that Pete Townshend perfected on Who’s Next, this time sounding a bit like the 8-bit soundtrack to some lost level on Metroid. The remainder is so impossibly twee and catchy as to call up fond memories of The Shins‘ Chutes Too Narrow.

Oddly, though, Lonesome George – the clear standout track, and perhaps the best indie-pop song this fledgling decade has provided us thus far – comes quite late in the rotation. Album opener First-Rate Pretender is stunning in its own right, setting a low-key tone for most of what’s to come. The guitar tones here are clean and thick with warm mids, providing the sort of lush foundation that Band Of Horses has staked claim to.

Ben Plang’s vocal delivery is unshakably lackadaisical, and sluggish in the best sense of the word. He doesn’t sound much like Stephen Malkmus or Robert Pollard, but he’s got the same sort of hazy attitude, and he wears it well. The real effect, intertwined as it is with the music, is something like the Velvet Underground meets Television, turned round through a savvy who’s who of French pop sensibilities. The music herein is, to the track, every bit as powerful and promising as anything on Slanted And Enchanted or Marquee Moon.

Twice gallops along fuzzily through a handsomely crafted snakelike soundscape. Black Soul opens sounding a bit like Pearl Jam‘s Better Man, but saves itself as the rhythm section comes in, turns the beat round from what you’d expect, and opens the way for a droning, somehow mystical vocal lilt with lines as puzzling as, “From the cities to the country that we’ve crossed. From the rainbow to the black doves in your head.”

Solar hints at a bit of lounge country and western (the same sort of country that The Beatles channeled on Rubber Soul) and is the album’s only minor detractor. Album closer Heart’s Architecture sweeps and meanders through a lunar landscape of haunted guitar feedback and harmonica before opening full-tilt on a vista of synth horns and achingly rendered vocal harmonies, closing the album with heartfelt grandeur.

So, a once-great band loses its singer, and its remaining members are left with the option to carry on with someone else at the helm, but these waters are treacherous and plagued with every manner of unspeakable peril. The Doors got it absolutely wrong post-Morrison. Genesis got it absolutely right post-Gabriel. Yeti Lane have taken another route altogether, adopting a new – and perplexing – moniker, and jimmying their sound a bit. The result is an early contender for 2010’s indie-pop album to beat.

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