Mr. Yolk - Self Portrait

by Mark Moody Rating:8 Release Date:2017-11-10
Mr. Yolk - Self Portrait
Mr. Yolk - Self Portrait

At a scant 22 years young, London based songwriter Samuel Jones can’t be expected to have settled on a signature sound, much less a stable moniker to represent himself.  Releasing three albums in as many years under three different band names indicates a bit of restlessness, but perhaps labelling this album Self Portrait is some indication of settling in - at least on a name.  Prior albums by Rocket Ship TV (which was a bit more jangly) and Velvet Morning (more similar but less varied) were solid in their own right, but here, appearing as Mr. Yolk, Jones comes up with a hodgepodge of styles that mesh well together.  If Ty Segall is influenced by Sabbath and T. Rex, Jones takes his cues more from the Summer of Love heyday.  Trippy and psychedelic in places, but Mr. Yolk mainly serves things sunny side up and the album benefits from a sum of the parts synergy.

Stylistically things are a bit of a scramble, recalling listening to a hazy breezy 60s band’s greatest hits album, where each time you listen to it something different strikes you. Specifically, The Lovin’ Spoonful come to mind in that the loose assemblage of the band that they were, at the end of the day it came down to the strength of the individual songs.  Folk, acid tinged psych, jug band music, lilting ballads, a little gritty soul, all side by side - sure why the Hell not?  Jones does the same here throwing a bit of everything but the kitchen sink into the mix.  The opener ‘Baker Street’ (thankfully not a cover) locks into a skippy funk groove that belies the down and out tone of the lyrics.  It’s a perfect listen on repeat track, and if you like the sound of it then by all means listen a few times as it stands apart style wise from the rest of the album as so many of the tracks here do.  But don’t linger too long on ‘Baker Street’ as the next track, ‘Star Light Head Light’ (focus on the middle two words given the light headed tone), is a highlight of the album.  The languid guitar line with the most brilliant hook of the year peels back your skull ever so gently and lets your mind float about in a dizzy haze.  I wish this was the longest track on the album, but Jones does let you down easy as the next track serves as a bit of similar sounding methadone to wean you off the hook of the prior song.  

The center of the album meanders a bit, and I can’t help but picture William Shatner giving the 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' treatment to the non-sensical spoken word ‘Green Valentine Blues’.  Though ‘Everything Is Blue and Orange’ does have a bit of tasty, spacey groove it stretches out a little too much with the landline phone and dial up modem sound affects - it does befit the era it pays homage to though.  Fortunately things transition back through the chunky snippet of 'Hard Drive Revival', to a solid second half of songs.  'Bees', with its calliope swirl of blues tinged riffs and maniacal laughter, is one of the more straightforward songs, but that gives way to the slow as molasses folky shuffle of  'Don't Play With My Emotions'.  The slide guitar that slips around the percolating title track almost replicates the infectious hook of  'Star Light Head Light' as Jones teases "do you know how to twist" as he bends the notes.  Setting aside the many colored songs, Jones' accomplished guitar work is an appreciated constant.

The album sends us off on a couple of puffy psychedelic clouds.  Assuming the lady sampled on the closing track goes by the name of Change, the song 'Change Is Going to Come' holds true to its promise.  If you are half as satisfied as she is with Mr. Yolk, you should enjoy this album quite a bit.  As with a greatest hits album, there's not much point in writing so much about it - just listen, put the songs you like best on your favorite playlist and enjoy.  

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