Release Date: Aug 21, 2012
Record label: Secretly Canadian
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Brooklyn's Yeasayer are just as experimentally world-hugging as homeys like Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors, but they're also dedicated to pop grandeur on its own terms. Each Yeasayer record has been hookier than the last: Their 2007 debut was globetrotting freak rock; 2010's Odd Blood added hyped-up Eighties sheen. LP Three is a forlorn R&B fiesta, from the wry LCD Soundsystem disco of "Reagan's Skeleton" to "Henrietta," in which Chris Keating croons over a black caldron of keyboard burble.
Yeasayer's third and arguably best LP Fragrant World kicks off with "Fingers Never Bleed." The diatribe on the money-mongering and unrepentant greed fueled by manipulating numbers and bilking proletariats out of their pensions by hedge fund managers and Wall Street mavens sets the tone for the rest of this magnificent record. It stomps along like a machine, one oiled by blood, evoking the future dread of classic sci-fi films such as Soylent Green, Blade Runner, and Escape from New York, and that's exactly what Yeasayer largely rail against and simultaneously revel in throughout the album. .
The de-nerdification of Yeasayer has been a strange and rewarding trip, one that’s possibly closing on its end end with the trio’s third set, Fragrant World. They’ve never exactly been uncool, but certainly debut album All Hour Cymbals’ overt world music-isms and proggy live shows marked them out as just that bit less sexy than then-peers like No Age, HEALTH and Time New Viking. Odd Blood’s r’n’b textures and bona fide classic lead single ‘Ambling Alp’ more or less changed that, but despite the tidal wave of goodwill it issued in, the album didn’t quite live up to the single, strokes of genius like ‘The Children’ rubbing up against some comparatively pedestrian balladry.
Ever since these arty Brooklyn kids broke through five years ago with their eclectic debut All Hour Cymbals — just try to find a circa-2007 indie mixtape that didn’t have ”2080” on it — they’ve been one of the scene’s biggest question marks. While 2010’s Odd Blood leaned harder on psychedelia, Fragrant World sheds yet another skin, forsaking much of Blood‘s poncho-friendly experimentalism. The result is something both tighter and somehow weirder, tethering college-dance-party grooves to the band’s far-out secret-society visions.
Recent years in pop music have been characterized by their throwback quality, with ‘80s New Wave synth popping up around every corner, making contemporary tunes sometimes indistinguishable from the styles of decades gone by. But where other bands struggle to make these sounds fresh, Yeasayer’s third full-length, Fragrant World, smooshes the synthy beats of artists like Depeche Mode with ‘90s-era R&B and contemporary electronic music to make a record that’s all their own. Clearly influenced by the bizarro beats Timbaland compiled for artists like Missy Elliott and Aaliyah, Yeasayer imbue Fragrant World with an otherworldly quality.
The in-your-face hooks powering 2010’s unexpectedly poppy Odd Blood turned Yeasayer into bona fide indie-pop darlings. This time, the Brooklynites chose to crank up the weird instead. “Henrietta” begins as a squidgy sci-fi trip-out, but somehow ends as a swooning ballad; “No Bones” sounds like bhangra filtered through a Commodore 64; and “Reagan’s Skeleton” is a head-bobbing ’80s flashback.
YeasayerFragrant World[Secretly Canadian; 2012]By Brendan Frank; August 21, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGOn April 11th, 2008, Yeasayer played “2080," still the best cut from their 2007 debut All Hour Cymbals, on Jools Holland. It was one of the most memorable televised performances I have ever witnessed. Chris Keating’s performance (not to mention his dancing--hiccupped flailing that falls somewhere near David Byrne) and his band’s exuberant commitment to creating their own self-contained musical cosmos was truly breathtaking.
Brooklyn's Yeasayer's evolution has always been based on a near-constant juggling of disparate sounds; the sound combinations have just been different from album to album. While 2007's All Hour Cymbals melded the watery drugged-out ethno-pop of Animal Collective or MGMT with muscular classic rock tendencies, 2010's follow-up, Odd Blood, traded yelpy vocals for a more front-and-center approach and attempted to merge brittle electronica with bigger-budget pop production. Fragrant World, the band's third full-length, follows this ever-changing pattern, leaning on R&B-informed beats, bleating synth tones, and Chris Keating's pleadingly romantic vocals.
What comes first in Yeasayer’s writing process – the songs or the sounds? Do they start with the queasiest analog synths they can harness (“Devil and the Deed”, “Demon Road”), then set to work on melody and words? Or do they begin by unearthing the fuzziest vocal filters to match their “demented R&B” vision? It’s difficult to imagine guitarist Anand Wilder writing “Demon Road” on an acoustic guitar. Then again, it’s difficult to imagine writing “Demon Road” period. Like 2010’s Odd Blood, Fragrant World is a clamorous shift away from the sunshine psychedelica (“2080”, “Wait for the Summer”) that marked the Brooklyn band’s first success.
So where are we now, then? Or rather, when? To an extent the nostalgia in Yeasayer's previous work fitted the 20-year rule put forward in Simon Reynolds' Retromania - their debut All Hour Cymbals drew heavily on the world music explosion of the late 80s; Odd Blood on early 90s dance music - however, there was still something quite unpredictable about these borrowings, thanks to the band's often inspired mixing in of influences that were markedly less fashionable. 2007-model Yeasayer could have been the work of an obscure, yet way ahead of their time, prog act, and by their second album they'd unexpectedly morphed into The Backstreet Boys from an evil parallel universe. For their third album, however, Yeasayer have done perhaps the most surprising thing of all and decide to cannibalise themselves - on first listen, Fragrant World comes across as Odd Blood without the tunes.
There can’t be many songs these days written from the perspective of a tumour that’s outlived its human host. ‘Henrietta’, the most beautiful moment on Brooklyn trio Yeasayer’s third album, though, is a bubbling electro-rollock that tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, a Baltimore woman whose cancer cells were preserved for research purposes after she died in 1951. Halfway through the trapdoor opens, and things swirl in slow-mo as a chant of “oh Henrietta, we can live on forever” echoes out.
Yeasayer's eternal glitch-pop aesthetic strides the ever-shrinking gap between their vaguely disparate demographics: rave-savvy festival-goers and collared-shirted public-radio aficionados. How a band whose overly ambitious inclusions from so many genres—psychedelia, world music, 1990s house, not to mention obvious Beatles influences—has shrunken into an easily palatable omni-marketable brand is, to say the least, an underwhelming feat. Their third album, with its painfully twee title, Fragrant World, seems to shuck off any trace of true experiment and settle, instead, for recycling the dance-inflected digressions of their solid sophomore release, Odd Blood, repackaging them into tediously voluble, monotonous pop-friendly beats.
Philosophically speaking, you are sort of acquiescing your own context by releasing any form of art into the public. In other words: upset your music got used in a car commercial? Get over it. The context of the song leaves the artist and becomes a simulation of the thing it was intended to be. Entertainment, the song as commodity, is but the abstraction of the thing at work, the net that captures the masses.
Yeasayer's third album is an anxious record – both in its sentiments (Reagan's Skeleton cautions against the "sentimental violence" and "Don't fear the red eyes/ Fear the satellites overhead") and in its sonic restlessness. Seemingly horrified of ever sounding dull, they've made their experimental pop more fidgety than ever – the two-bit bhangra clattering through "No Bones" is exemplary – but a fondness for the funkier reaches of 80s synth-pop permeates the record and helps things cohere. They're at their best when they do a little less, as on the surprisingly melancholy and lovely Henrietta.
Yeasayer's O.N.E. was a joy, propelled along its deceptively sad path by summery bounce and charisma. In the two years since, they've been tinkering with their oddball formula, venturing into more experimental areas. The first half of Fragrant World plods around self-indulgently, and No Bones veers all over the place, beginning with a chopped-up Bollywood melody and ending up as a sneering, Nine Inch Nails industrial stomp.
YEASAYER play the Danforth Music Hall on November 9. See listing. Rating: NNN On their third album, Brooklyn-via-Baltimore experimentalists Yeasayer step back from the poppier elements of their previous album with mixed results. In no way do the three-piece sound like they're phoning in takes or getting lazy about pushing their tribalistic and danceable indie rock into new realms of synthetic exploration.
Say what you will about Yeasayer, but up to this point in their career, their music hasn’t been easily categorized as "unremarkable". It’s invited opinions-- loud ones-- from supporters and detractors alike. Since their tracks are based on similar qualities-- spirited, can-do lyrics, sweeping harmonies, and deliriously stacked arrangements-- there's been almost no middle ground separating their excellent run of singles ("2080", "Tightrope", "Madder Red", "O.N.E.") from their catastrophic face-plants ("Mondegreen", "Rome").
Befitting their positivity-tinged moniker, Yeasayer has always skewed toward an effusive amiability—never as daring and manic as Animal Collective, never as downbeat and eerie as former label-mates Liars. They’re a marginal act prone to uneven albums, with a lyrical focus on syrupy environmentalism that’s been their only consistent quality. When the band hits a groove, the results can be hypnotically entrancing; when they miss, their songs often slide into soggily protracted faux-tribalism.
Two years ago, Odd Blood went above and beyond most of the high expectations for Yeasayer’s second album, transforming the group from heavily-hyped experimental pop act into a huge draw at festivals across the globe. While that album may not have incorporated exactly the same tribal, post-apocalyptic acid trip that their career opened with, it remained funky, intricately layered, and danceable. The especially positive response from crowds to the accessible psych cuts like “O.N.E.” seems to have made an inroad into the Brooklyners’ third LP, Fragrant World, an album that takes fluidity and sheen to another level.
Two years ago, the experimental Brooklyn group Yeasayer made a ruckus with its bright and infectious blend of urban synth-pop on sophomore release Odd Blood. Before that, it introduced us to All Hour Cymbals, a more trippy experiment with tribal sounds than its catchy followup. Loading its arsenal with swooping croons, fluttering synths and uptempo, unconventional beats, Yeasayer put itself in contention with fore-running psychedelic experimental outfits like Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective.
It is reasonable to worry every now and again that music, like history, will repeat itself and given a few years all we’ll be left with is miserable duplicates of tired chord formulas. And it may well happen. But, for now, you can sleep safe in the knowledge Yeasayer exist. Rarely does a band leave genres on the cutting room floor quite so blatantly and yet emerge with such consistently excellent music.The New York five piece must have been feeling the pressure after the success they reaped with their second album, ‘Odd Blood’, two years ago, but it doesn’t show.
YEASAYER “Fragrant World” (Secretly Canadian) Beyond human voices, natural sounds are scarce on Yeasayer’s third album, “Fragrant World.” Synthesizers and programmed beats define every song, using tones that flaunt their artificial attacks and ricocheting stereo placements. Even the vocals often arrive haloed in effects or surrounded by computer-tuned harmonies. It’s hermetically sealed pop, very deliberately keeping its distance from everyday physicality, and it suggests not an artificial paradise but a well-guarded isolation chamber.
Since their inception, Brooklyn, NY's Yeasayer have decided on using a nebulous framework for their music. Debuting in 2007 with All Hour Cymbals, they were mislabelled a psych-folk jam band. Then with 2010's Odd Blood, they swapped guitars and tribal rhythms for synths and wrote an album of pop bangers. Now in their third phase, they've made Fragrant World, another creative overhaul based upon a love for R&B production and a concern for what the future has in store for us.
Once you’ve settled into it, Yeasayer’s Fragrant World is a wonderful place to explore. Alix Buscovic 2012 Prior to the release of this third album, Brooklyn’s triumvirate of indie psych mavericks – Chris Keating, Anand Wilder and Ira Wolf Tuton – sent fans on an Internet scavenger hunt. Like hipster Easter Bunnies dealing magic and childlike wonder, they hid videos of every song on Fragrant World over the web, dropping clues to help the search.
If Yeasayer's second album Odd Blood ditched their debut All Hour Cymbals' gathering of influences beyond western hemisphere pop, then Fragrant World is another noticeable, if somewhat less pronounced, step in the collective's continuing attempts at keeping up with the vogueish concerns of their contemporaries. In 2010, it seemed pretty clear that they were after a bit of what the likes of electro-indie crossover acts such as MGMT and Phoenix had been enjoying over the previous couple of years. This time round, the success of bands like The xx, a greater emphasis by the blogging community towards solo songwriters/bedroom producer-types and, of course, the infiltration of post-dubstep into wider circles – to name but three movements – has led to the feeling that artists currently finding consensual-critical acclaim are those of a more introverted nature.