New music genres are popping up all over the place, and folktronica is no exception. Los Angeles-based yOya's debut album Nothing to Die is exploring this seemingly-contradictory type of music in a very approachable manner. Not that acoustic guitars and electronic ambiance have never been fused before (see Radiohead, the sub-par Coldplay, and even The Beatles) but yOya does bring something quintessentially American into the mix: the gallop beat.
Nothing to Die opens with a rousing track called "Fireworks." The duo of Alex Pfender and Noah Dietterich come out of the gate with fearless falsettos, a pace perfectly suited for a road trip soundtrack, and joyful harmonies preaching "From here the days get shorter/ tireless but older/ come on, let's get older/ and keep our hands held down."
The album is persistent in its goal to make you tap your toe on every second beat. Songs like "Looking in the Window," "Bone Flowers," and "Come On, Kid" can inspire tired, wayward cross-country travelers to continue on to their destination. But what sets Nothing to Die apart from typical galloping folk music is its flirtation with electronic texture. For example,"Dusty Loners" is complemented by an otherworldly-sounding helicopter, invoking an image of laying in a field of corn looking up at the stars.
All the uptempo songs showcase the range and strength of the duo's vocals, while the ballads reveal their weakness. Particularly on "Crybaby Bridge," the fearless falsetto reminiscent of Jeff Buckley is replaced by a wavering intonation. Pfender and Dietterich's hauntingly beautiful harmonies make up for most of the lacking vocal prowess.
Stand out track "Lovers On" exemplifies this album not only in instrumentation but in tone. While it feels frantic, there is progressive momentum, all the while it exudes pure, unadulterated audio joy. If this is the beginning of a folktronica movement, then let the good times gallop ahead.
yOya's album release show (featuring The 88 and Whisper in the Roar) is tonight at 7pm at Ground Zero at the University of Southern California. Nothing to Die will be available on digital download and CD. The show is free.