Yes Nice is an orchestral pop duo that has recently escaped the tundra of Edmonton, to attend art school and be near the sea in Vancouver. Blindfolded, their second album, is an intriguing and tuneful collection of songs, full of lush, layered instruments. In fact, between them, Scott McKellar and Nathaniel Wong seem to play about a dozen different musical instruments, bending the timbres of acoustic and electric guitar, piano, strings, flute, woodwinds, organ and others to the cause of giving their music voice.
Having the option of playing whichever of those instruments best suits the song gives them an awesome degree of freedom in crafting the album—they have access to many sounds, but the lushness and diversity of sound is different from that of a band like Broken Social Scene or Arcade Fire; in those bands, a different person is behind each instrument, and one can sense that the more unified vision of only two artists lends the affair a more cohesive, orderly air.
But one can’t compare Yes Nice to the aforementioned bands too much. They are an entirely different experience, this album is quite polished and carefully arranged. There is a sense of it being composed, of having some of the Hylozoists’ neo-orchestral sense of harmony and counterpoint, and some of the Beatles’ episodic multi-section tendencies. Though not constantly riveting and sometimes too busy, it works well thought of as an extended suite—several of the songs transition seamlessly to the next, and each holds its place as a step through the larger work.
For myself, the three-minute high point of the album is “Horses,” with its energetic, constant, syncopated beat; its handclaps, whistling, and joyful, massed vocals, with their African-esque melody and gospel lyrics. Only after these catchy elements take hold do Yes Nice tastefully embellish the proceedings with strings and organs.
It’s hard not to see the album in a different light after “Horses.” It’s a question of direction really: will the duo lock onto the energy they tapped in that song? Whether they want to is up to them, but next time around it may make the difference between quite good, and, as this is, superlative.