The fifth album from Portland, Oregon duo Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans is their second on the DFA label and, get this, deals with the idea of “paradise being a kinetic potential, a latency within us that has been eaten away by time.” Wow. So, Shangri-La is a concept album then, all about utopia in the face of dystopia. The world is turning to shit but it's okay because we're all going to party in a higher place. Or something.“The earth is on fire/ We don't have no daughter/ Let the motherfucker burn,” sings Evans.
Sonically, the record is a catchy clash of disco, punk, pop and electro, presumably intended to soundtrack this future utopia. Strangely then, it is actually a slower track that is most interesting. On Love in the Dark Evans nonchalantly informs us "I love you like a small-town cop/ Yeah, I wanna smash your face in with a rock." However, this intriguingly threatening moment also highlights the problem with Shangri-La. Namely, when Yacht are telling us not to “worry about God up above/ We're gonna live life in love,” it's hard to know how genuine the sentiment is because the delivery on the album generally appears to be sneeringly ironic.
So it's a relief that the melodic pop of the closing title-track brings things to a sweet end with the rather lovely and seemingly heartfelt idea that heaven is wherever you want it to be. If they'd told us that at the beginning of the album, we could have just had fun dancing to their well-crafted tunes rather than wading through the kind of scenester space-age psychobabble that would make Nathan Barley blush.
Review by Bobby Townsend