Written by Mike Yoder, posted by blog admin
Minneapolis based Austin Carson can never be accused of lacking ambition. Working under the moniker YYY, his fourteen song release A Tribute to the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds contends as one of the best recordings of its ilk you’re likely to ever hear. It is scarcely possible to imagine a more evenly balanced presentation of faithful reinterpretation working alongside unique and individually distinctive embellishments. It is fortunate, for listeners, that Carson isn’t happy with just approximating the original Beach Boys material. It saves the release from matching standards impossible to meet and, instead, the personal twists he brings to these familiar tunes makes them more his own than pure cover. It has often been quoted that a work of art is never truly finished, only abandoned, and the greatest songs produced by the species are infinitely malleable and more universal than we realize. YYY captures that sort of magic with A Tribute to the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds.
“Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” is the first indication that this isn’t your average tribute. He does a superb job of understanding the importance of vocals in these songs and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?”, naturally, relies on spot on singing more than most of the songs on Pet Sounds. It’s also one of the most immediately recognizable moments from the Beach Boys classic and illustrates a pattern in his approach to the album’s marquee numbers. Later iconic moments like “Sloop John B”, “God Only Knows”, “Caroline, No” and “Good Vibrations” all pull off an artful balance between mesmerizing re-invention and faithful recreation. He wisely emphasizes certain standard elements in each of the aforementioned song as if nodding to the original version while allowing him the latitude to extemporize musically and providing an environment where his guest musicians and singers can flourish. “God Only Knows” and “Good Vibrations” are the most successful examples in this vein and stand a chance of pleasing even the most hardcore Brian Wilson devotee.
The secondary numbers on Pet Sounds is where Carson’s imagination often runs wildest. Bringing in deeply affecting female vocalists to offer a notably different perspective on traditionally male dominated material makes for some interesting listening while he shows a wont for experimentation on those songs that embraces the originals while bringing new moods and atmospherics to bear. The tracks among this group are the uniquely spun “Let’s Go Away for Awhile”, “Hang On to Your Ego”, and “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times”. The last song in that list rates as one of the sleeper gems on this album that shouldn’t pass by unheard or unnoticed, especially due to the tour de force vocal from Devata Daun. YYY is remarkable, as well, for his insistence on a music first approach that’s perfectly illustrated by his ease with never occupying the performing spotlight for long. He’s the guiding artistic force behind this release, perhaps, but the contributions he gets from every quarter immeasurably enhance even the more obscure numbers. YYY’s A Tribute to the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds outstrips similarly themed efforts from his peers and contemporaries alike and whets the appetite for any future releases.