Review Summary: Something like a traditional prog rock concept double album that works.
You have to be confidently mad or madly confident to attempt to record a double pop/prog album these days in the vein of Pink Floyd’s Wall_or Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and additionally give it a social media theme that deals with its all ups and downs. To top it off, it is only your second album proper (along with a few ep’s) and you release it independently.
Well, Jamie Stanley, aka Mailman obviously has a bit of both in himself, because that is exactly what he did on Yang Yin, a double album of prog/pop that, as he put it tackles the fact that “social media, for example, is a two-headed beast, simultaneously breaking down barriers by connecting people while also herding people into dangerous cliques and echo chambers. I wanted to say something about that with this record".
The thing with such concept projects that you are constantly riding on a knife’s edge of coming up with a strong concept that will hold throughout the project, and coming up with enough good musical ideas to escape the trap of being dull and boring, essentially, ending on that life you are riding on.
In essence, with a few scratches and scrapes here and there, Mailman manages to sail through all the dangers and come up with a two-hour listening experience that will not make you fall asleep (maybe with a doze-off here and there), or bored to death.
Mailman takes a few more queues than just Floyd and Genesis - most of them from the English side of the pond. While the two mentioned permeating his prog inclinations (“Operetta”, “Dear Darkness”), his more pop-oriented material draws comparisons to the likes of Squeeze (“Frontiers”) and Depeche Mode (“Searchlight”). Also, throughout the double sides, you realize that Stanley obviously cherishes Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs” album. But he has obviously taken few listens to the more rocking purveyors like Pearl Jam (“Little John”).
But the good thing is that Mailman was able to incorporate all these influences quite seamlessly into his musical and lyrical ideas, without turning into some sort of a copycat. Still, the fact that it is a concept album, and that the ability of a listener to get through the whole album in one sitting depends on how much Stanley was able to present his idea of the duality of the social media, again, as he puts it, "No-one is immune from these paradoxes and contradictions. Some days I want to dismantle the system. Some days I want to binge watch dross on Netflix... it all co-exists and intertwines, no matter how divided things are made to appear."
The thing is that at some moments, although those are, you start losing track of what is going on and your attention can falter. But then, maybe the whole idea was to stop for a moment and digest the ideas presented so far.
All in all, Yang Yin is a quite a valiant effort, with some really interesting musical moments and very few detours into the mist of ambiguity.