When we think of Winston Yellen’s Night Beds, automatically in our heads we hear the soft echoing words “come on, Ramona…”. It was with this sort of sprawling Americana that Yellen charmed us on his debut Country Sleep, part of the modish alt-folk set at the time.
So it obviously comes as a surprise that Ivywild starts with a cloistered, underwater drift in Finished. That title could refer to a closed chapter on the old sound, of which mere traces remain on this new record. According to the press notes, it was inspired by the life-changing effect Yeezus had on Yellen. While it might not be anywhere near that level of groundbreaking, it certainly quite a similarly labyrinthine and production-heavy affair to get lost in.
Of course, that trademark ache in Yellen’s voice remains his core appeal, yearning as he does on Corner. That’s the thread that runs through this record, alongside his new ability to structure more skillfully around it (swathes of electronica ripple around Seratonin and Tide Teeth), making Night Beds feeling like a more confident and robust project than other artists of this ilk.
At 16 tracks, however, it is a bit of a draining ordeal, and there are endless forays into modern alt-R&B like Sway(ve) that seem inspired by Kanye’s vocoding but end up sounding like insincere imitation. Yellen is making it more than apparent that he wants to break out of his lovelorn troubadour mode, but there’s that niggling feeling that – in the cloud of production trickery – he’s left his heart behind on the road somewhere.
Ivywild by Night Beds can be ordered here.