You, You’re Awesome, the opening-night main act for this year's MidPoint Indie Summer Series (this Friday on Fountain Square), has earned its way to headlining status by building an ever-increasing following with its crafty, magnetic Electronica, a mix of modern, energetic rhythms (thanks to Kevin Bayer’s live drums and Yusef Quotah’s smart programming), catchy, clever samples and an assortment of snyths and electronics that bridges early, pioneering usage and today’s more stylized approach.
YYA’s live presentation is a part of its full package, as the band showcases its visual instincts with choreographed video displays. Unlike some acts that use such accompaniment out of fear that their simple presentation might not be compelling enough to watch, YYA’s visual aids aren’t the mark of a lame live band. They’re a stand-alone entertaining band with or without the film footage, with an energy more akin to a Rock band than a button-pushing Electronica act.
In fact, as the duo’s just-released Good Point, Whoever Said That (YYA’s first full-length) proves further, You, You’re Awesome can be enjoyed in several forms, Transformers-style. Taken as a live two-piece, a live-two piece plus visual extravaganza, or simply YYA in the recorded format, each element is a wholly-enjoyable slice of groovy goodness. The twosome has gradually released a series of EPs since its inception, but Good Point has a funky fluidity that easily sustains the nearly hour-long run-time of the full version full-length (a bare-minimum version of the album is available as a free download through the group’s site here, though I highly recommend dolling out a few bucks for the “bonus tracks” and other perks).
There is a playfulness in Good Point, something that carries over to all aspects of YYA (for example, their enthusiastic band name), and the way each track is loaded with gear-changes, quirks and surprises makes the full-length akin to rapid-fire channel-surfing. But that’s not a diss — the quick-fire diversity never seems too cutesy or forced and, like it or not, our society’s attention span not only creates a market for such eclecticism — it also creates artists who work within the same mindset.
The “keep things interesting” pace is part of the fun of Good Point, which somehow manages to sound retro, modern and futuristic all at once. The hues change throughout and when it comes to tempo, style shifts and samples, the band is fearless, from the bubbling, dramatic build of Electro-funkin’ “Motherbrain” (which comes off like the soundtrack of some weird Beverly Hills Cop/Dr. Zhivago hybrid as played by a young Tears for Fears) and expansive dynamics of “Zooey” (with cello riffs and ping-ponging Electro-burble) to the Laurie-Anderson-trapped-in-an-Atari “Choose Your Own Adventure” and the Moog-y squiggles of “For You, Right Here.” Another highlight is the bonus cut “So Many Numbers,” which chops up a frantic old-school Jazz shuffle to great effect.
While it’s still fair to call YYA an instrumental band, Good Point isn’t devoid of melody or voices. Vocoder vocals (a sorta precursor to “Auto-Tune,” with a similar robotic effect) can be found throughout, though they often just become part of the texture of tracks like the superb, Gary Numan-y “Let’s Be Villains Together.” But on bonus track “Talking Mini Friends,” the vintage female vocal chant samples looped create a definitive hook (think Justice’s “D.A.N.C.E.”) and the fantastic “She Appears All the Time,” with its Hip Hop undercurrents and Moog trills, has what appears to be an original female vocal (drenched in effects), something that does set it apart from the rest of the album. YYA doesn’t need vocals to be effective, but the strength of the tracks with the more prominent voices suggests adding such an element would open up yet another dimension to the duo.
Good Point, Whoever Said That is an album with wide appeal — dance-club divas will love the beats, pop culture nerds will love picking out some of the samples (taken from old films, children’s recordings and Jazz, Funk and R&B records) and references, and those with an ear for more experimental sounds will be impressed with the tinkering beneath the surface. It’s an album for everyone, a solid, self-contained slice of compelling, pleasurable entertainment regardless of your tastes in music.
A version of this review appeared in CityBeat’s June 1 edition.