By Eleni P. Austin
Summer is here. With “fun in the sun” and the “sand and surf” comes summer music. The perfect combination of carefree lyrics and hook-filled melodies.
The Beach Boys pioneered the sound in the 60s with “Surfin’ Safari.” Bands as disparate as Sly & The Family Stone, (“Hot Fun In The Summer Time”), Haircut 100 (“Fantastic Day”), D.J. Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (“Summertime”) carried the torch in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Last year Best Coast had the song of the summer with “The Only Place,” their cheerful, albeit biased tribute to California’s myriad charms.
So far, the summer soundtrack for 2013 is Bigfoot, the debut from Cayucas. Not exactly a band, Cayucas is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist, and Santa Monica native, Zach Yudin. For live performances, the album’s songs spring to life with the help of Yudin’s identical twin brother Ben on bass, Christian Koons on guitar, Casey Wojtalewicz handling drum duties and Banah Winn supplying keyboards.
The album opens with “Cayucos,” a buoyant homage to the sleepy beach town near San Luis Obispo- that the band is kinda sorta named for. The tune is propelled by percolating rhythms and guitar riffs that dart like Fireflies.
Both “East Coast Girl” and “High School Lover” wax nostalgic for lost loves. The melody on the former is a jaunty Samba. The lyrics are wistful and vivid, detailing the sturm und drang of teen romance… “You kept your secrets girl, and I told you lies/No hiding places left to hide.”
On the latter, Yudin’s deadpan vocals recall Beck. Here he unspools a tale of unrequited love and miscommunication that rivals the drama of a John Hughes film from the 80s… “Oh Elizabeth you kept me guessing, I opened the door and saw you undressing/ The words come out one after another, you should have been my high school lover.”
On “A Summer Thing,” Cayucas combines J.D. Salinger exactitude with Phil Spector-esque grandeur. The lyrics are a sharp and cocise treatise on summer camp that matches Salinger’s “Hapworth 16, 1924.” The one-man-band musicianship includes plinky piano fills and guitar riffs that ripple like castanets, echoing Spector’s celebrated “Wall Of Sound.”
“Deep Sea” is also jam-packed with 60s inspirations. Beginning with the frothy Bossa Nova beat that gently suggests “Girl From Ipanema” with a hint of Burt Bacharach. The taut instrumentation is sprinkled with autoharp sounds and tinkle-y bicycle bell punctuation.
The lyrics perfectly capture the exquisite anguish of young love in the form of a chance encounter: “Hey pretty girl with the beach blonde hair, I saw you walk by and I was trying not to stare/ Said she’s too afraid to tell a high school secret, but you don’t have to be afraid, I promise I can keep it.”
Other stand out tracks include “Will ‘The Thrill’ “. Anchored by angular guitar chords, this adventurous tune unfolds like a classic travelogue. Apropos of nothing, the song name-checks athletes like Michael Jordan, Philly Phil, Cincinnati Red and Will “The Thrill” Clark. “Ayawa Kya” presents a combo platter of effervescent melody and Seuss-ian wordplay.
The album closes with the title track, a stutter-step meditation on the Bigfoot myth and the monsters that haunt our dreams.
At only eight songs, Cayucas’ debut is short but definitely sweet. Coasting on a laid back Cali sound that is playful and exuberant. A perfect pop confection.
CAYUCAS “Bigfoot” (Secretly Canadian Records)
By Eleni P. Austin