From the opening notes of Dancing at the Blue Lagoon, you can tell that it’s going to be an adventurous album to say the least. A slow droning mix of synth and strings gradually blossoms with deep, muted horns and eventually erupts into an orchestral excursion of Afro-pop-inspired psych. That opening track of “Big Winter Jacket” sets the excitement levels high for this album, and, frankly, they maintain that pace throughout the duration of Dancing at the Blue Lagoon. This is a record oozing with nostalgia and vague representations of brothers Zach and Ben Yudin’s childhood escapades in the California sun.
There are tons of things to fall in love with about Dancing at the Blue Lagoon; songs are packed full of catchy hooks and swiftly shifting melodies and rhythms, making for an unpredictable and riveting listening experience. However, while their arrangements and execution are stellar, the sound composition still feels a bit like watered-down versions of acts like Vampire Weekend, Ra Ra Riot or Paul Simon. Though Cayucas’ sound may lack a particular sense of originality, they still offer fantastic views into sun-soaked summers of yore.
The songs of Dancing at the Blue Lagoon feel like they could be memories ripped from scrapbooks, filled with lofty dreams, wide-eyed love, and backstrokes in the swimming hole. Each track has a significantly different feel to it, maintaining a surf/psych vibe but delving into baroque, electronic and Afro-pop territories. There’s rambling and reeling indie rock with “Hella,” string-driven ballads of suburban visions like “Ditches” and Latin-inspired island vibes from the album’s title track. This versatility gives hope that Cayucas may yet break out from the safe-zones of Vampire Weekend knock-off tracks and into a unique territory all their own. There are hints of electronic experimentation and eccentricity that peek in on “Backstroke,” punctuating the jagged guitar lines and drippy vocal melodies, indicating that there’s potential for some truly special music from this young band.
But an album doesn’t necessarily have to be innovative to be enjoyable, and Dancing at the Blue Lagoon is proof of this. They’re not pushing music forward, but they’ve added some pomp and fanfare to their sound since their breakout album, Bigfoot, that has paid off in bunches. There may not be as many earworms on this release, but they’ve approached it with patience and a finesse that allowed the songs to flourish into deep sonic explorations that leave the listener eager for more.