It felt like it was only yesterday that Melbourne songwriter/producer Yeo spent a copious amount of time clocking up numerous music appearances. From festivals, supporting Sam Smith, dropping Triple J favourites ‘Icarus’ and ‘Quiet Achiever’, 2015 served a long list of accolade that even found Yeo collaborating on Hermitude’s ‘Searchlight’. In hindsight, all have helped cast a dazzling light on his latest full-length project, Ganbaru. The nine track album is both unassuming and a sparkling ode to late ’80s synth pop. The complete immersion of ’80s style is reminiscent of local mullet-masters Client Liaison, who are similarly dedicated to the analogue aesthetic.
Picking up this album straight from his breakout single ‘Girl’ – which, keep in mind was released in 2013 – you will notice a distinct change in sound. His vocals still have that indie garage filter, but he has shifted away from a hazy electronica to a more synthetic, polished production. It poses perfectly as a poolside DJ set, with each track purposefully transitioning into the next, without any blank space, interspersed with cuts of crowd noise or white noise. Yeo delivers strongly on those poolside summer vibes without sugar-coating, particularly on synth pumpers ‘VCR Play’.
It’s difficult to not be taken with ‘Quiet Achiever’ from the opening bars, as he lays down an infectious combination of steel drums and hypnotic drum patterns before turning it into a summer banger. It acts as a clear headline for the album alongside opening track ‘Icarus’, which help set the sundazed scene for the rest of the album. There are funk inflections that stem later on tracks like ‘1 for the Team’ and ‘Promise / Secret’. He closes with the charming ‘Jet Cooler’, with the hook pleading to “cool your jets” as if this album could be any more chill.
The album title itself is a Japanese expression that loosely translates to ‘doing one’s best through tough times’, which is an interesting revelation for an album which seems impossibly bright. Digging through tracks like ‘Got No Game’, the 8-bit production is as bubbly as ever; Yeo himself voicing a relatable anguish in letting a “girl walk over me” and not being able to act the part, no matter how hard he tries. Even though the production fits the clear mandate he has cast for it, this track reveals that Yeo himself is struggling to fit in.
‘Ganbaru’ humbly stands out as Yeo’s best body of work; a distinct coming of age moment for the songwriter/ producer as he finds his penchant for an 80’s groove. He is steadying himself for the Ganbaru national tour, kicking off later in the month.