If By Yes: Salt On Sea Glass Review
The last time I heard anything by Petra Haden was over a decade ago with power pop band That Dog. Several years and many projects have passed and now she’s teamed up with another name I haven’t caught up on since the same era, Yuka Honda of Cibo Matto. After years of long distance songwriting together, the pair enlisted Hirotaka “Shimmy” Shimizu and Yuko Araki of Japanese band Cornelius and If By Yes was born.
Salt On Sea Glass starts promising enough. “You Feel Right” is the first of a pair of songs that get the remix treatment from Cornelius. A lush pop song with layers of vocals and gentle stabs of keyboards, it starts the record on a high note. That high note carries on to the second song “Eliza”, featuring a rather subdued vocal appearance by David Byrne. Eastern style percussion and a sitar keep things interesting but still leave Haden’s vocals front and center. A few tracks later, “Still Breathing” is the second Cornelius remix, a mix of shiny guitars and more pronounced drum beats. The rest of the record tries, but never manages to find the interesting mix that the first couple tracks of the record exhibit. It isn’t till the 11th track, “Adrift” that the albums take an interesting turn, and the band opens up. The drums become lively, the instrumentation more noisy, and Haden lets loose with her wordless vocalizations. The track builds enough to hint at a drawn out prog rock style epic but drops out after 4 minutes.
Haden is an extremely talented singer (see her 2005 reconstruction of The Who Sell Out done only with her voice and an 8 track machine which I discovered while writing this review) but If By Yes never really hits the peaks they all seem capable of. Not to say this is a total failure, “Eliza” is an early pick for my favorite songs of the year list. Recently If By Yes has appeared to be playing some shows with Nels Cline and Trevor Dunn as part of the band, so let’s hope that’s a look at things to come.
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