What kind of music do nerds normally listen to? It’s not a question that’s frequently considered, since the perception is that D&D, Magic the Gathering, and Kingdom Hearts are normally enough to capture nerds’ attention. In fact, nerds do listen to music, and classic rock and ironic metal are generally safe bets. Maybe this is because nerds flock to the defensible, analytical safety that both genres offer. Nerds that listen to and genuinely enjoy pop music are few, and obvious analytical safety is the last thing that that genre offers. Perhaps YACHT sensed this sad fact, and has made See Mystery Lights partly as an attempt to welcome nerds into the pop fold.
Pop is clearly what YACHT makes. (The name is an acronym for Young Americans Challenging High Technology.) Their songs are too short, concepts too loopy, and beats too bizarre to be anything else but confident, excessively cerebral, partially tongue-in-cheek pop music. Which is great — it’s maybe something that pop needs more of. Sound sorcerer Jona Bechtolt’s considerable prowess as a producer and composer is no small part of that aforementioned intellectuality, as it feels like his goofy approach to beats seems to have matured here; in the past, his seeming lack of gravity could be off-putting.
Some of the material on See Mystery Lights, like “The Afterlife,” and “We Have All We Ever Wanted,” still runs the risk of seeming a little on the hifalutin side, like Bechtolt and collaborator/girlfriend Claire Evans are trying too hard to come off as precious and weird. But if you don’t focus so much on what the band wants you to think of them, it’s easy to see that this record is mainly a collection of charming tracks.
It’s difficult to listen to See Mystery Lights and not compare it with Bechtolt’s work with Khaela Maricich’s once and again solo project, the Blow. One thing that’s unfortunately obvious is that neither Bechtolt nor Evans is as appealing and earnest a songwriter as Maricich, at least at this point in their careers. The two best songs on See Mystery Lights are “Psychic City (Voodoo City)” which is a cover, and “Summer Song,” which isn’t some kind of songwriting triumph, but is so well composed and bangs so hard that the other elements of the track don’t seem to matter so much.
It’s probably a silly gripe, but one to consider. On Paper Television, the Blow’s album before Bechtolt vacated the duo, presumably to focus on YACHT with girlfriend Evans, the tracks are mainly musings on love and relationships. On See Mystery Lights, there is one track about the Internet, and “I’m In Love with a Ripper” is possibly a dig at T-Pain. Immaculate production and carefully conceived themes are sure to make your nerd-tent a lot bigger, but is the space worth it if you push out even one well-penned ditty?