Despite the name, The Dreadful Yawns’ five or so years of existence have been anything but boring. This month saw the release of the Cleveland band’s fourth full-length in that span, this one with a completely new lineup with the exception of principal songwriter/vocalist Ben Gmetro.
While Take Shape (Exit Stencil Recordings) has its share of the rootsy, dreamy folk-pop that dominated the band’s first three records, it takes plenty of twists and turns as well.
“We thought of Take Shape as our first album. There was no reason to make comparisons to the other three albums because those were made by different people,” Gmetro says. “Of course, I sang and wrote some of the songs so not all of the old Yawns is lost.”
Case in point with opener “Like Song,” a groovy, jangly gem that could have come off of any of the Yawns’ platters, as well as “Catskill,” a beautiful, sad folk-rock tune that Gmetro harmonizes with new member Elizabeth Kelly.
These numbers, however, sandwich the Nuggets-worthy “Queen and the Jokester,” which showcases a more muscular side to the new group. “Saved” carries on this newfound garagey swagger and appends the album’s first freakout.
Kelly takes the lead vocal on both the sprightly “Kill Me Now” and the Apples in Stereo-like “Expecting Rain.”
The rollercoaster ride really begins, though, toward the end of the record.
“All the Dead Soldiers” is a hybrid of a typically enchanting Gmetro indie-folk showcase with a far out coda. Next, “Don’t Know What I’ve Been On” sees a trippy sunshine-pop number morph into a disarmingly chaotic jam before wrapping up at length with a fingerpicked acoustic and hushed harmonies.
Finally, the closing “Mood Assassin” melds a sweet Kelly vocal with an angular indie-rock barrage and a string section into the most significant departure of the album and a truly new frontier for the band.
Gmetro says these forays really don’t indicate much of a shift in direction, despite the personnel changes.
“The old lineup of the Yawns is the original source of much of the crazy music. We would improvise all the time and try to create otherworldly soundscapes with our simple instruments. On stage, these improvisations would be sandwiched between twangy pop songs, and at the time we thought we were making alien country music.”
What did change, he says, was his philosophy in the studio.
“In the past, I set out only to produce albums of songs. Now we’re producing the band performing the songs. Take Shape is an album of a band performing songs.”
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