On their last album, Bigfoot, Cayucas debuted in a way that defied their namesake, the sleepy seaside town of Cayucos, CA. As listeners fell in love with its shimmering west coast vibes, Zach Yudin watched his bedroom recording project transform into a band that toured the world almost overnight, all while his songs raced across the radio. But as Zach and his twin brother and bandmate, Ben, went in to create what would become their new album, what it all came back to was something more personal. While they now call Los Angeles home, they drew from the nostalgia of their childhood growing up in Davis, CA; the nostalgia in their music that is as much about a place they’ve never been (that maybe no one’s been to) as any actual experience. It was a freedom to imagine, to explore ideas. And it was that wandering imagination and a punchy California dream that eventually grew to become Dancing at the Blue Lagoon.
While their sun-drenched, jangly, sometimes melancholic sound is quintessentially Californian, the album is very much their California. It’s the sound of kids from the suburbs who fantasize in Technicolor, whose view of the Golden State is its own form of idealism. You can hear it loud and clear in the easygoing confidence throughout on the crisp, backbeat-driven “Hella” or as “Moony Eyed Walrus” takes surf guitar into fragmented, unpredictable places. The impossibly catchy and heartbreaking “Backstroke” is a Murakami-inspired detective story, neo-noir that is equal parts stylization and gut-level emotion.
That said, Dancing at the Blue Lagoon is all about a band testing its comfort zone and asking us to do the same. “Big Winter Jacket” is a world away from sun-kissed pop, with acoustic guitars that build into something grand and expansive. The after-hours piano ballad “Ditches,” like much of Dancing at the Blue Lagoon, takes pop conventions and digs into them. Like the Beach Boys of Sunflower or Surf’s Up, it reminds us that sadness and uncertainty are never far from the surface, even in Cayucas’s most carefree moments. It casts some like the title track “Dancing at the Blue Lagoon”–a lilting tropical fantasia–in an entirely different light.
As the primary songwriter, Zach depends on this kind of versatility. “I write on a song-by-song basis,” he says. It’s been that way ever since he started taking music more seriously in college. Zach and Ben would “create bands that were more like a musical idea,” record a few songs, and then move on. Cayucas grew out of this period of experimentation.
The real core of the record is the almost harrowing “Blue Lagoon (Theme Song).” Accompanied by a lone guitar, Zach’s performance is emotionally raw and technically precise, the kind of statement that gives Dancing at the Blue Lagoon real substance. Like a great actor whose art rings true because of an honest, human streak, Cayucas has taken sound we thought we knew and turned in into something personal and complex.
There are currently no tour dates for Cayucas