At first listen to the summery, jangly, surf-pop songs that litter Cayucas‘ sophomore album, Dancing at the Blue Lagoon, my first reaction was that this could be the soundtrack for a movie. That movie – “Cocktail 2”, which would be the sequel to the Tom Cruise-Bryan Brown film about a young, egotistical man who finds his calling as a flashy bartender (no, it isn’t an autobiography of Cruise). This opinion was only validated on “A Shadow in the Dark” – the Latin-infused, orchestral pop song that has the lyric, “She took off her clothes and cannonballed” (paging Elisabeth Shue!).
But the album is much more than the beaches of California, Florida, or any tropical island. It’s not exactly a record about sipping Piña coladas, Mai Tais, or whatever your favorite cocktail may be. Rather, it’s a concept album with each song telling the story of a different person and their travels to get to and when they arrive in “paradise”. And like a movie, every song on the album is cinematic, mixing together terrific harmonies, calm and easy melodies, and classical instruments (strings, piano). The stories are a mix of a euphoria, disappointment, and disillusion, much like a film.
The opening song, “Big Winter Jacket”, encompasses all of these characteristics. Cayucas open the song like a symphony – the shallow hums of the strings before the other instruments join in to create a moving build. “Moony Eyed Walrus”, which is the most jangly number on the album, and the piano ballad “Ditches” follow on the opening number’s stirring arrangements. The three together tell the restless dreams of three different people seeking something new and exciting. On the latter, there is a sense of impatience and despair, but, as the bands says, it’s not as bad as things appear and “you are never lost”.
“Hella”, meanwhile, describes the amusing journey of a young man from Saskatchewan heading to California to live the American Dream. On his way, he experiences things he never imagined and, thus, he doesn’t quite find providence and he realizes he’s a long way from the wheat fields and hockey rinks of his home province.
On the flip side, some people find paradise. The title track, “Backstroke”, and the aforementioned “A Shadow in the Dark” depict the romanticism and drama that could only be found in the tropical islands and their azure-colored waters. The three songs also have a slight change in tone. Whereas the first half of the album is more orchestral pop in their nature, Cayucas incorporate more Latin influences into these three sounds, creating an upbeat, summery sound.
What Cayucas have achieved with Dancing at the Blue Lagoon is something quite different than expected. Yes, it has the feel of summer and could be the soundtrack for many people’s holidays. However, deep within the album are human stories and the intergenerational search for paradise. Sometimes we find it in a far away land, but often times it lies closer to home.
Cayucas is the project of twin brothers Zach and Ben Yudin, who are originally from Davis, California but now spend their songwriting days in Los Angeles.
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