Gayngs – Relayted (2010)
Total Score: 83 / Solid Gold: 69%
In the year 2010, a lot of musicians have really been wearing their influences on their sleeves. This year saw MGMT all but abandon their 21st-century psychedelica to pay homage to 60’s psych-pop groups like Strawberry Alarm Clock on Congratulations — and almost as overwhelming was the Genesis-leg-humping Odd Blood from Yeasayer. While both aforementioned sophomore attempts failed to equal the success or strength of their respective debuts, at the very least they represented some amount of bravery on the bands’ parts. Sure, hundreds of bands are happy to emulate The Beatles or The Smiths in an attempt to achieve indie rock superstardom, but Yeasayer and MGMT chose their far less hip, far less critically-celebrated contemporaries. It’s an ambitious idea, but unfortunately in both these cases originality was sacrificed considerably, overshadowed by tribute.
Enter Gayngs. Gayngs is some kind of unknown indie demi-supergroup, boasting 23 musicians – including members of Bon Iver, Megafaun, Solid Gold, and Andrew Bird, to name only a few – whose sole musical drive, it seems, is to take the soft rock output of the late 70s and early-to-mid 80s very, very seriously. Their debut album Relayted is purportedly inspired by the 10cc song “I’m Not In Love” off their 1975 record The Original Soundtrack, and the influence is clear, combining elements of Doobie Brothers-esque instrumentation and washes of psychedelic sonics. Even though there are more than half a dozen lead vocalists in Gayngs, it seems every one (save Rhymesayer rapper P.O.S.) tries their best Michael McDonald impression at some point. That being said however, unlike MGMT and Yeasayer, Gayngs manage to actually create something completely new and modern on Relayted, while fully honoring those influences and presenting a strong case for their legitimate recognition.
With 23 contributors it would be difficult to avoid a varied, unique sound, and on Relayted every track is different, and every other track is a suite. Nearly half of the tracks on the 55-minute record exceed the 5-minute mark, most of which at some point deteriorate into slow psychedelica, echoing the stylings of 10cc but at times sounding more reminiscent of New Mexico freak-folkers Brightblack Morning Light. At the same time, every electric piano tone on every track on Relayted is so familiar, recognizably taken from the popular lexicon of 1970s pop and soft rock. The end result is something like Hall & Oates on downers, on a sliding scale between dramamine and valium.
There’s also a serious level of drama and melancholy present on Relayted that cannot be ignored, casting a dark shadow over the typically light-hearted nature associated with 70s soft rock — and this is key. What made this style of music so appealing to the adult contemporary crowd, that carefree-verging-on-goofy “Yah Mo B There” aspect of soft rock, is completely absent on Relayted. Instead, what Gayngs have drawn from this genre is the complex volume of chords towards a pop sensibility, and a meticulous attention to quality production. From there, they darken and distort sound — Relayted is washed with thick reverb and echo, layered with lilting harmonies and 7 chords.
Surprisingly enough, this huge assortment of musicians still manage to create something completely cohesive with Relayted, using that soft rock influence as the common thread uniting it all. Tracks like “Cry” (a cover of the 1985 Godley & Creme hit) and “No Sweat” can’t let you escape nostalgia, placing you directly in an open-air arena afternoon concert of the Reagan era, surrounded by yuppies waving lighters. But on deeper tracks like the Ambien-induced “Ride”, you’re somewhere totally different, watching a lounge band in some hole-in-the-wall at three in the morning, on whiskey and ketamine. To be honest, this is exactly what you wanted the new Yeasayer to sound like – a perfect marriage of the 1970s and 2010s versions of slow psychedelic rock.
This record will grow on you, so give it more than a couple listens. Let it set in slowly, take a smoke break somewhere in the middle, like an acid come-up. When 6 1/2 minute slow-banger “The Last Prom” comes to an easy, smooth jazz-y fade out, you will open your eyes enlightened, seeing new things.
Killer – “The Gaudy Side of Town”, “Ride”, “No Sweat”
Filler – “False Bottom”, “Faded High”