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Cayucas Spins A Twinkly Summer Daydream

Zach Yudin of Cayucas.
Zach Yudin of Cayucas.

Consider the one-man band: those brainy, studio-savvy musicians who can get the right sound out of any instrument they pick up. Solitary reflection is a given in their process, and that helps make them natural vessels for songs about summer romance — the most poignant of which take place long after the fling is over and only the memories remain.

Cayucas' Zach Yudin is one of those tinkerers. On his debut album Bigfoot, the Santa Monica multi-instrumentalist presents summer as a thing to be memorialized, its resonant moments embedded in letters and souvenirs. (Case in point: The deluxe version of Bigfoot comes packaged with a beach ball.)

Bigfoot feels laid-back and spacious, like the metaphysical beach on which its stories take place. It's got a lot of The Beach Boys' bounce and echo, and a little of the melancholy, too. Thankfully, Yudin also has a sense of humor: If the memories he's evoking are his own, he's let go of a little of the naivete he had when he first lived them. The ethos is less, "Those were the best days of my life" and more, "I can't believe I thought those were the best days of my life."

Like many of the tracks on Bigfoot, "A Summer Thing" is the second coming of a song Yudin released last year under an old handle, Oregon Bike Trails. The difference isn't just one of audio fidelity. Yudin's first crack at the song was willfully distant — the vocal delivered in a chilly monotone, the instruments spindly and detuned like a music box cranked too fast. The revamp is sweeter, warmer and slowed down enough to establish a groove.

More than that, it allows delightful weirdness to shine through. What starts as a fairly pedestrian tale — a summer love lost, a promise to reunite and the ache of waiting in the meantime — gives way to increasingly dark and enigmatic images: a rope hanging from a tree, the distant howl of wolves. And then, in its final seconds, the song modulates upwards and everything but Yudin's voice and a twinkly piano falls away. The effect is a jolt, followed by a feeling of groundedness, as if being gently shaken out of a dream.

Bigfoot is out April 30 on Secretly Canadian.

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