Album Report: “Caillou” by Yuppy

Yuppy is a band that caught me by surprise. I have seen them perform before but I must have been talking to someone or lost in my thoughts because I don’t remember much from those shows. Track Johnson and Anthony Patten both play guitar and front the lineup, with Brett Torrence and Michael Highfill completing the rhythm section on bass and drums respectively. From what I remember they started up as Caillou, had some social media arguments about it and eventually ended up called Yuppy. They don’t play too much, but they did share their release with Shady Bug which made for an exciting evening.

“Caillou” is Yuppy’s debut EP, a sort of tribute to their original band name. The flowers on the cover are nowhere near bald and no mention of the kid is to be found within, so I’ll leave conceptual theory to the long reaching. The production on this thing was conducted by Eric Hudson. Despite small details it’s safe to say that the mix and blend are stylistically appropriate and that everything feels right in place. The instruments all have a lot of personality, with thick guitar leads, humongous reverb vocals, resounding toms and a dense rhythmic backing that all reference the sound of 2000’s alternative rock fairly accurately while maintaining a unique idiosyncrasy. I especially enjoy the vocal production with it’s loud and echoing force– I’ve heard versions of that sound countless times before but here it feels right in its place.

This effort is short in length, but each song does a fair amount of traveling around in its arrangement. The lead single and opener “Love Handle” is perhaps the best example of this. It starts with a light shuffle on guitars and drums to create a groove upon which Track delivers one of the most infectious melodies I’ve heard on a St Louis track with an endearing voice that feels pure and honest. I didn’t expect much when I put this on and I was honestly floored the second the song started. The guitar riff that takes Track’s place between hooks is confident and full of body– it works as an exciting release from the dream of the adjacent vocal performances. It’s hard to say, but I think this prancing introduction with its heartfelt content and touching melodies is the strongest point of the release– it calms and excites me evenly and has my mind going all over the place through its sheer emotion.

Eventually the song appears to fade out and makes way into its second half. “Love Handle” is interesting and stimulating because of Track and Anthony’s tendency to share their space and interact with each other when singing– this song is instead split in half with each section reserved to one of them. Track’s dream is over and Anthony’s double time section is equally as exciting. He sings a mimic of the guitar melody that accompanies tag lining it with high peaks in both intensity and pitch, and building up the track considerably with each line. The instrumentation is fierce and relentless, adding to the heart and high soaring energy we already perceive. After the drums and guitar double up and the vocal melodies get even higher, strange noises blend into the texture and Track’s vocals join to subtly accompany Anthony’s in closing this mammoth of a track out. I honestly love this song and its ever growing nature, and I couldn’t think of a better debut opener as a mission statement for a band like Yuppy to present.

The two tracks that complete this release are humbler and more understated in arrangement than the opener, but help round the EP out in their own way. The opener is followed by “Doha”, which heavily relies on double vocal call and response verses between Track and Anthony. At first I was underwhelmed by this interaction, but time and multiple listens let me sink into it more and appreciate the two front people’s chemistry in timbre and sentiment. Ethereal sounds color the texture between verses to maintain sonic interest before the song moves onto a loose disco beat and arpeggiating guitars that seem to stack endlessly. The sound of the high hat is off putting in its shake and it helps “Doha” transition into its final emotional climax. The vocals are pushed further in this hit based outro, but it didn’t really catch my interest until the closing guitar lead waltzes in seamlessly to end on a confident note that contrasts the lyrical content. I almost wish the vocals could have wandered outside of the guitar’s rhythm in this final section to create more momentum, but the composition remains strong nevertheless.

“Commune Fruit” closes the release out with a breezy and relaxed beat upon which Track delivers verses that loosely follow the guitar rhythm, but pleasantly branch off to develop on them. The guitar leads in this section are simple and relatable, and eventually the last one of them brings us into the floor tom clad middle section. Anthony’s vocal melodies are invaded by Track’s singing on the first iteration, but the second time we hear him breathing in and exhaling we hear it loud and clear– Track then takes over the high register with a falsetto that fills in Anthony’s gaps to further showcase their vocal chemistry. I highly enjoy this middle section hook– Anthony sings with a refreshing confidence and poise when in this low register, and I can’t help relating to the sentiment. The final section builds up from the middle into vocal interruptions and a loose feel that fades into a short vocal skit and a final reference to the first section of the song. I honestly could have done without the skit, as I don’t think it does anything for the song– everything feels so ethereal and reflective up until this point that this audio recording takes me out of my dream and impedes me from fully enjoying the outro.

“Caillou” is a short and sweet showcase of what Yuppy can do, and a worthy introductory debut. There are a number of small compositional and stylistic choices I wouldn’t have made, but its minute run time is enjoyable through and through, and each song presents interestingly developed ideas that showcase the band’s expansive nature. There are a lot of references to the alternative and indie rock of last decade, but I believe they are made tastefully and the sound of the band benefits from them. A track like “Love Handle” shows me an immense potential in the group, and helps the other more understated songs be taken more seriously and listened to more attentively. The songs are long but justified with contrasting sections, narrative evolution and confident vocal interactions between the two front people. Every time I listen to this EP I wonder if and how Yuppy could keep their momentum in a full-length the way they did on this debut of theirs, but if the songs and melodies stay strong and distinct like they do on “Caillou” I am confident I will want to listen to it.

Listen to “Caillou” via Bandcamp down below:

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