A California Idyll; Summertime Soundtrack Fodder
For those whom the golden state is more abstraction than reality, there are certain musical flourishes that evoke the idealized version of California only found in Brian Wilson’s imagination. Surf guitars, intricate orchestration, a pinch of Phil Spector, a dash of exotica, the occasional falsetto, lyrics viewing one’s teen years through rose tinted glasses, and reverb drenching everything. Cayucas’ new record, Dancing at the Blue Lagoon — their first since 2013’s Bigfoot — has all of the above in spades. This record feels like it was designed to be listened to outside in full sun, preferably while wearing shades, driving down the Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible.
“Big Winter Jacket,” the album’s opener starts with a string, horn and piano intro that grows in on itself, repeating and building in a way that merges the repetition of Maurice Ravel and the overwhelming American-ness of Aaron Copland. The addition of vamping acoustic guitars swing the piece away from classical hodgepodge towards chamber pop. It is a brilliant opening track almost cinematic in scope.
“Hella” is about a Canadian who relocated to the California coast and is trying to pass himself off as a native-born surfer even though he still has his hockey gear stashed beneath his bed. Musically, there is a little bit of Dick Dale and a little bit of the Eagles here to “up” the unabashed California-ness. Also, how can you not love a song that rhymes “phenomenon” with “Saskatchewan?”
The title track “Dancing at the Blue Lagoon” is an interesting mix of different musical textures. The guitar work is reminiscent of the work done by the African musicians on Paul Simon’s Graceland. There is a bit of electric piano and xylophone work that recalls Les Baxter’s exotica lounge music.
The one downside to this record is that the singing is dripping with vocal fry, the croaky throat sounds become tiresome a little less than halfway through the album. That said, if you can break up this great collection of songs, throw it into the mix with a bunch of other pool party compatible tracks, it will be a welcome addition to your summer playlist.