Yearbook 1 came out earlier this year, and like a lot of great import-only releases of years past, I decided to hold off on reviewing it in order to wait and see if a slightly larger label would pick it up and give it the distribution that I thought it needed. Sadly, it's been about half a year now, and this compilation album (collecting their West Coast LP and "No Comply" 12-inch) from Sweden's Studio is still only available on the smaller Information label out of their home country. Obviously, there's no problem with that, but it doesn't lend itself to being found in a lot of CD collections when the cheapest it can be found is thirty dollars or so.
Enough talk about the global CD marketplace, though, because Yearbook 1 is one of those releases that seemingly comes out of nowhere and deserves the praise that its gotten. It's an odd little release that combines everything from new wave to krautrock and a touch of electronic pop music into something that sounds both retro and forward-thinking at the same time.
Split between shorter, vocal driven songs and extended, hypnotic jams (yes, jams), the album has a laid-back, but cool vibe that lands it somewhere between modernist museum and beach-bum. "No Comply" opens the release with some tinny piano synth melodies, breathy vocals, and a buoyant rhythm section that pushes forward through to a sparkling second half of shimmering guitar, crowd-noise samples, and warm vocals. "Out There" keeps the throwback vibe going with somewhat antiquated-sounding drum programming and dry, almost post-punk bass. Multiple guitar and keyboard lines keep winding around one another and twirling the song forward through a sort of tumbling alternate 80s universe that sounds like a strange but joyous melding of Art Of Noise and the Durutti Column.
Really, that's the beauty of the group. They've taken sounds that are familiar in other ways and then bent them around and put them together in ways that sound new and refreshing. "Origin (Shake You Down By The River)" is one of the aforementioned vocal-driven tracks, and it hints at everything from afro-beat to guitar-driven rock. The epic "Life's A Beach" is another standout, curling chiming guitar phrases and more synths around some soft polyrhythms for almost thirteen minutes without wearing out its welcome at all.
There are a couple missteps, but they're both pretty minor. "Radio Edit" essentially steals the riffs from the album opener, and tweaks them into sort of a bland neu-disco track that's nice, but not as engaging as their other work while album closer "Indo" could be described as similarly pretty, but not quite as grabby. In the end, Yearbook 1 is eight tracks and nearly seventy minutes of spacious music that should have gotten a wider audience by now. Considering it's largely simply a re-release of work that's been out for awhile already, here's hoping the duo are already hard at work on something else.