Black Yaya

Black Yaya

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With his self-titled debut as Black Yaya, David Ivar makes a creative space for himself that's markedly different than his work with Herman Düne. That he worked with Yuksek on Black Yaya's debut single, the deceptively sunny pop song "Paint a Smile on Me," suggested Ivar was looking for a radical change. Though that song unfortunately doesn't appear here, Black Yaya shows he found not just one new musical direction, but several. Holing up in Los Angeles and working on these songs almost entirely on his own, Ivar's impatience to play with different sounds and approaches courses through the album. He puts some of the biggest departures at the beginning: "Flying a Rocket"'s glittery, loose-limbed pop and audacious guitar solos are much closer to Jens Lekman than Herman Düne, and while "Glad Tidings" shares some of that project's melodic and lyrical clarity, electric pianos and strings give it a '70s warmth that suffuses all of Black Yaya. Ivar cited Bob Dylan and John Lennon as two of his biggest inspirations, and their influences can be felt on songs such as the "Watching the Wheels"-like contemplation of the standout "Lo & Behold" and "Gimme a Gun," which fuses the former Beatle's sardonic humor with country music's flair for dramatic storytelling. Meanwhile, "Save Them Little Children" -- which Ivar says came to him in a vision in a Norwegian hotel room -- evokes '70s Dylan at his most epic. Elsewhere, as Ivar flirts with charming, harmony-filled indie pop on "Under Your Skin" and dives into dreamy soft rock with "Through the Deep Night," his distinctive way with melodies helps prevent his flights of fancy from seeming too scattered. Even when he returns to territory that Herman Düne could have explored ("Watchman," "Vigilante"), there's an appealing looseness that is Black Yaya's own. This is an intriguing, promising debut that suggests lots of possible directions for Ivar's next move.

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