Album Review: The Yugos' "Weighing the Heart"

This review originally appeared on Dudes Brunch.

It’s been four years since Cincinnati indie-rockers The Yugos last release, Life is Awesome, and Then You Live Forever. That album’s danceable yet dreamy sound makes clubs, amphitheaters,  even your own earbuds feel like the center of the Earth for an hour or so. Now it’s high time we heard something new from The Yugos. Thankfully, next month they’re dropping their third full-length: Weighting the Heart.

On first glance, Weighing the Heart seems like a departure from The Yugos’ previous work. There are less gang vocals. The songs aren’t quite as upbeat. There’s a 90 second instrumental intro. And the album art is based on some serious Egyptology. Even the lead off singles felt a little different than what I was expecting. Now that I’ve had time to digest the whole album though I realize this is just the sound of a band that’s had years of shows to mature between albums.

The fast echo-drenched guitar leads and the ambitiously catchy vocal melodies are still there. Only now they’re padded with some extra instrumental layers in the mix that make the band sound more like an ensemble than a team of independent musicians.

The songs on Weighing the Heart are more complex than the group’s previous two albums. Many of them include two or more distinct rhythmic feels in the same song. The influence of long-time Cincinnati indie darlings Pomegranates can definitely be felt on these songs.

“I Want U 2 <3 U” is a standout with a unique structure. The first two-thirds of the song heavily feature the rhythm section. Clean and punchy bass and drums push the song forward with an almost stark minimalism. Christian Gough’s vocals get some room to breathe…until the guitars slam through the bridge into the third section of the song. At that point it becomes the bombastic wall of sound you feel like mashing and dancing to at the same time.

The Yugos know their rock history. They knowingly wink at The Cure, Talking Heads, U2The Kinks and The Ventures. This isn’t a nostalgic record though. You don’t have to know any of those bands to dance along to these songs. And if you’ve ever been to a Yugos show, you’d know that it’s pretty hard not to dance along.

A perfect example is “Andopolis”, a Surf Rock/New Wave hybrid rocker named after a Freaks & Geeks character. There are a lot of references and influences to parse if you’re into that. Or you can just dance along and scream along.

The bass and drums on this album are warm like a summer night. It makes the mix feel bottom-heavy in a way that does wonders to counter out the high-pitched lead guitar melodies and occasional falsetto vocals.

Like past Yugos releases, there’s a whole lot of echo on this album. Fans of lo-fi, garage and shoegaze should be fine with it. Others might find it a bit grating. I’m a total sucker for it though. These songs sound huge, and the warm mixing on the rhythm section makes the echo-y leads pop all the more for me.

They’ve been on the scene for quite a while, but The Yugos still feel youthful. There’s a pure fun to these songs (and this band) that will always remind me of summertime back home.

There are no downers on this album. There’s barely even a ballad. This is purely fun, danceable and thoroughly catchy rock music. We need more albums like Weighing the Heart to make it through times like these.