Imagine a singing voice reminiscent of a smoother John C. Reilly (yes, that John C. Reilly) alternately fronting indie rock bands Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Beirut, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from the latest album from Brooklyn’s Wild Yaks. The opening chords of Rejoice! God Loves Wild Yaks sound like Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me.” Whether this was intentional or not, doesn’t matter. What does matter is that with these immediately familiar, uplifting chords, Wild Yaks have made it clear to the listener that they are unapologetic optimists who want to bring the love.
The first two songs on Rejoice!…, “Paradise” and “Golden,” are appropriately paired. They both have a similar tempo, they both effectively use horns and lilting flute to punctuate the music between the verses, they both ultimately provide the record with an enthusiastic starting point, and they’re both derivative and safe. It isn’t until the third song, “Wise One,” that Wild Yaks fall into a more original sounding groove that has them displaying their unique abilities and strengths. If this was the band’s first album, I’d understand this preliminary sequential choice. You snag the people with a style they can quickly compare to something they’ve heard prior, and as soon as they’re comfortable, you lovingly roll them up in your conceits and blow their minds. This being the Yaks’ third full length, the inferential openers are a bit puzzling. Perhaps this was a way of easing fans of the Yaks’ prior albums into a slightly altered version of their initial style?
Regardless, what follows in the remaining three quarters of Rejoice!… are tracks that feature wonderfully fuzzed-out guitar solos, thoughtful lyrics that never take themselves too seriously, and gorgeous, sustained baritone vocals that are particularly effective on the album’s two ballads, “Jesus” and “Ex Wife.” If you’re among the blog rock weary, and you’re looking for something challenging, idiosyncratic, and different, this may not be for you. However, if you’re already a Wild Yaks fan, or you fantasize about middle-aged American actors with distinctive voices fronting indie rock bands, you have good reason to rejoice. The new Wild Yaks album is here and it provides a healthy heaping of their buoyant exuberance.