The pairing of Yuka Honda, known for her layered electro-pop musical structures, and Petra Haden, known for her wide-ranged vocal talent, entices on reputation alone. When you add Yuki Araki and Hirakata Shimizu of Cornelius, then it’s no wonder why If By Yes’ Salt on Sea Glasswas so widely-anticipated. Yet, the jazz infused, avant-pop album sounds just like it reads–too good to be true.
Salt on Sea Glass seems to be driven by a Southeast Asian motif. The standout track “Eliza” is a full-bodied wall of sound. The sound of sitars and bongos paint the picture of an organic atmosphere as Haden and David Byrne (of Talking Heads) soothe you. Most of the album is introspective and dream-like, with songs like “Lightning In Your Eyes” and “Adrift.” One can argue that Salt On Sea Glass has a buddhist mindset—being that most of If By Yes’ songs sound tragic, yet beautiful. But then the album gets muddled, with standard jazz lounge songs like “ShadowBlind” that doesn’t seem to fit the overall tone.
The first collective effort by If By Yes has overwhelming potential. But Salt On Sea Glass falls short of what it could have been. The random inserts of poppy jazz songs tend to throw you out of the dream world they built and into a chair of a fancy Thai restaurant. Instead of being the album that takes us on a spiritual journey to find self-realization; it may be just a soundtrack for a backpacking trip around Asia.