Written by Raymond Burris, posted by blog admin
YYY’s A Tribute to The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds sets a new standard for releases of this stripe. Tribute albums aren’t nearly as common as they once were and it is difficult to recall a single instance of a musical performer who debuted with one. Austin Carson, otherwise known as YYY, isn’t your typical performer however. Minneapolis based Carson has an all-encompassing musical vision that irrepressibly imposes itself on the iconic album’s fourteen songs and he further augments the effort by putting a cadre of local indie musicians and singers to work in guest star roles throughout the release. The production is very good and, despite the predominance of electronic textures in these reinterpretations, Carson calls upon a wide variety of instruments to help realize this album. One cannot accuse Carson of aiming low with his object of veneration. YYY tackles, with this release, one of the most imposing reputations in pop music and succeeds spectacularly invoking its grandeur in a different voice for a new generation.
There’s an overall mix to the album of YYY following the template laid down by the original song and appending his own inventions within that structure, but there are likewise moments scattered across this release where he literally refashions Brian Wilson’s ideas towards different ends and imbues them with a distinctly different musical character. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?”, the album opener, reveals another side to his approach – his wont for dissembling the album’s standards like this song. Anyone familiar with the original will find much to admire here, especially his singing and construction of the harmony parts, but there’s much here that goes far beyond Wilson’s vision for the music. He makes liberal use of guest performers on the album so the songs where YYY takes the lead and doesn’t make use of others talents are particularly notable. “That’s Not Me” has an immensely charismatic vocal and one of the aforementioned arrangements that does a nifty balancing act between retaining faithfulness to Wilson and Asher’s original while still remolding the song towards YYY’s own ends. The only other song on the album where YYY chooses to go it alone is the wildly inventive take on “Let’s Go Away for a While”.
None of the above should be construed to mean his presence isn’t strong in the remaining songs. It’s omnipresent, but unstintingly willing and ready to accommodate other’s talents. He finds particularly sympathetic collaborators in Al Church, Matthew Jon, and vocalist Devata Daun. Church’s contributions to “Sloop John B” help YYY capture every bit of the wide-eyed soulfulness we hear in the original while still translating it into Carson’s unique musical language. His guitar contributions to the finale “Good Vibrations” are, along with the vocal arrangement, key to the success of that performance. Matthew Jon assisted YYY with the superb mix powering the album as a whole, but his musical talents are felt most strongly in the album’s version of the outright pop standard “God Only Knows”. No amount of familiarity with this song will prepare you for how well Jon and Carson acquit themselves with this. Devata Daun proves to be a world class partner on YYY’s interpretation of “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” and highlights one of the album’s poorly hidden strengths – the presence of female vocalists. It gives a fresh coat of paint to already sparkling works of vibrant color. A Tribute to The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds is everything that an album like that should be and more – it makes a clear personal and artistic statement about its driving force.