Yufu: To My Penpal Album Review
BY James Gui / Jul-02-2021
In time for the summer heat, Yufu’s new EP To My Penpal is a smooth collection of psychedelic soul, a soundtrack to hazy backroom entanglements and late-night yearning. Coming off the heels of his September 2020 debut Is It Vain To Be Awake?, this new release is a harbinger of the tunes to come later in 2021. Shifting forward in time from his original ’60s rock and roll sound, Yufu combines ’70s psychedelic and funk to express the nuanced complications of human emotions on To My Penpal. Released on cassette format, Yufu’s new EP speaks to the retro romantics as Taiwan and other regions throughout the world continue to battle the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To My Penpal opens with “Claire Awaits”, an enigmatic groove that pulls the ear close with a strolling bassline, sparse conga rhythm, and droning organ laid beneath a soaring, reverb-soaked vocal line. A cinematic opener, “Claire Awaits” almost feels like the soundtrack to a ’70s neo-noir with its smoky sound palette. The next track, “Our Vibration”, clears up some of the mystery that the opener establishes. Yufu’s husky croon could be mistaken for a more rough-around-the-edges version of John Mayer’s, and it shines during the song’s chorus with falsetto harmonies layered atop.
Yufu picks up the pace in “Bad Intentions”, a tune as danceable as it is funky. From the spanky rhythm guitar to the percussive flute solo, it’s a well-crafted homage to the funk classics. And on “The Walls Are Coming In”, he brings it back down with a twinkling acoustic guitar. Singing of the suffocation of heartbreak, Yufu also hints toward the claustrophobia of COVID lockdown: “But the walls are coming in, oh here they come / My conscious mind is washed and so I'm drowned.” The EP closes with the noisy, Hendrix-esque “Warm Fuzz”, another song of summer yearning, and a laid-back, instrumental version of “Bad Intentions” that teases.
At 22 minutes long, Yufu’s To My Penpal is a bite-sized EP that delivers a punch, or perhaps a sultry glance across the bar. Each track is carefully constructed with gestures to the ’70s, combined in a slick collection of Taiwanese pop with American flair. As the heat rolls in, Yufu’s To My Penpal is a must for the summer playlist.