Written by Pamela Bellmore, posted by blog admin
Minnesota’s Yam Haus has played together since their high school days and, with adulthood in the offing, are taking their musical passions to the next level. Their debut studio release, Stargazer, includes thirteen songs with robust pop strengths and musical substance blending together in a potent collection. It has a familiar sound and structure for any long time music devotee, but likewise has a thoroughly modern slant stellar production that only amplifies the underlying melodic bedrock sustaining each of the album cuts. Yam Haus manage a surprising degree of stylistic diversity, as well, and the track listing has a sort of natural, flowing coherence we rarely hear from full length releases today. Yam Haus’ mastery of traditional elements, relevant modern sound, and well oiled songwriting mechanics position them to be one of the best new acts in this vein to emerge for some time.
Evocative, echo laden keyboards open the album and title song. There’s a moderate pace set from the first and continues even when the electronic color recedes. Staccato guitar and a straight-forward rhythm section attack carry the load from here, but keyboards retain an important role in the mix. Lars Pruitt’s singing has a strong emotive quality, but likewise pops with approachable charisma – he sounds like a front man, but like one closely connected to his audience.
The same shimmering surface greeting listeners with the opening title track maintains our attention with the second track “West Coast”. It’s impressive how the four piece come off as cagey veterans despite their young age – their confidence is palpable. Synthesizers are integral to the band’s sound in the first two songs, but Lars Pruitt’s vocals are once again the critical piece sending this song over the top. The strong narrative qualities of the song are equally compelling and few two guitar bands are ever able to achieve the same airy dance Pruitt and Seth Blum’s partnership achieves on Stargazer.
“Kingdom” opens with a synth-driven fanfare before Jake Felstow’s drumming enters and gives the song a more definable, dramatic shape. The assortment of tempo shifts contained within “Kingdom” surrounds Pruitt’s vocals with urgent dynamic energy and he explores his upper register meaningfully for the first time on the debut. Yam Haus’ creativity is even further displayed during the second half of the song when acoustic guitar emerges from the mix with notable effects.
“Bad News” begins with synthesizers riffing in slightly disjointed fashion and the arrangement continues along these lines even when the song begins in earnest. There’s a lot going on in this thoroughly modern tune and Felstow’s drumming holds it together without ever dominating the spotlight, but the synth playing is especially inventive. The guitars in “Bad News” bring some extra bite to the track, but they assume an even more prominent role with the number “We Are the Storm” and flex their muscles during the song’s big screen chorus. Yam Haus has written and recorded an album well beyond their years with Stargazer and sound primed to go far.