Release Date: Feb 9, 2010
Record label: Secretly Canadian
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Alternative
Who'd have thought the psych-folk pile, already teetering on the brink of over-saturation, would peak with Yeasayer's second album? With the exception of opener The Children, which sounds like a forgotten Fever Ray track, Anand Wilder, Chris Keating and Ira Wolf Tuton have gone bigger, better and more cohesive. [rssbreak] Campy 80s synths are tempered by songwriting that's so strong, you never feel the Brooklyn trio's drifting toward parody. The echo-chambered ascents, descents and falsetto crescendos glue themselves in your mind, especially on highlight I Remember.
Not so much a step-up, but a masterclass in modern, multicultural, weirdo pop music, Yeasayer's second album is both odd and bloody marvellous. Taking in references from Middle Eastern pop (Madder Red), to Animal Collective-type balladry (I Remember) to Balearic house (the intro to the wonderful Love Me Girl), it's genuinely eclectic. The record thrives, too, on the combination of straightforward lyrics – "stick up for yourself, son," the narrator tells the boxer Joe Louis in Ambling Alp – and the petridish of musical influences within.
In many ways, Odd Blood is Yeasayer’s wonderfully freakish, plagiarism-as-flattery bow to the nerdy altar of ‘80s synth-rock. The Brooklyn trio artfully pilfers a dozen or so sounds—Wham!‘s purposefully asinine glam-pop antics; Rush’s hammed-up fantasy atmosphere; the Talking Heads’s whimsical, manic melodies; gated drum patterns ripped straight from New Order’s “Perfect Kiss”—and heaps them with untold glee into a murky, distorted, post-punk landscape that reeks of a lumbering dread. Simultaneously unpredictable, goofy, and terrifying, Odd Blood is a bizarre amalgam of glossy retrospection and dirty, demented modernism.
Don’t judge a book by its cover… or an album by its first track. Odd Blood gets off to an odd start with “The Children” -- a robotic, plodding song that prizes mood over melody -- before settling into a more balanced groove, mixing the multicultural sounds of Yeasayer's debut with a new emphasis on electronica, global trip-hop, and digital production. Like All Hour Cymbals, this is a thinking man’s album, one that requires its listeners to put on their thinking caps as well as their dancing shoes.
Until ‘Ambling Alp’ reinvented the band with a single shuffling stroke, my abiding memory of Yeasayer was not a particularly happy one. It is May 2008, and the sun is doing its damndest to immolate the town of Camber Sands, currently playing host to the Pitchfork-curated ATP. Yeasayer march on in a cloud of dry ice, begin playing an intro so absurdly portentous that it briefly threatens to be the most mind-fuckingly Dionysian thing EVER...
For all the critical buzzwords ascribed to 2007’s All Hour Cymbals—psychedelic, ethereal, sonically adventurous; Pitchfork’s Eric Harvey described a “pan-ethnic spiritualism” derived in the Byrne/Eno tradition—there was always something intangibly organic about the album; earthy, even. It was the sort of cavernous, lightly doctored indie-pop you could throw on a mix with Fleet Foxes or Yellow House-era Grizzly Bear without getting odd looks. Just witness the airy layers of acoustic ambience that surround “Wait for the Summer”, or the unabashedly rootsy harmonies that make “No Need to Worry” a thing to behold.
When a band’s growth is noticeably rapid, it’s tempting to inflate the quality of their output. The experience of observing an artist realize their potential creates something of an aural mirage effect; the improvements are heard more than the songs themselves. The sense of scale is thrown off, impressions of the music become unreliable, and critical disorientation sets in.
It takes only 20 seconds of “Ambling Alp” to figure out what the members of Yeasayer were doing in the time off between their sophomore album, Odd Blood, and their 2007 debut, All Hour Cymbals: Dudes clearly fell in love with dance music. It’s probably an unfortunate time for that to happen, since now it’ll be impossible for Yeasayer to shake all those Animal Collective Jr. jokes.
When Yeasayer debuted in 2007 with All Hour Cymbals, they were a Brooklyn art-pop group intriguingly out of step with their peers. They carried an air of mystery and surprise, and at their best ("2080", "Sunrise") managed to make offbeat mysticism and off-kilter pop music seem attractive and exciting. They were basically a rootsy, classic rock-ish version of MGMT then.
Iwas sheltering from the hail in my local indie record store the other day, flicking though the latest vinyl missives from the precious world of Music No One Buys. This store puts helpful notes on the sleeves about what the record sounds like, and I felt less like I was browsing for pop records, and more like I was cramming for an exam on avant-garde 101. Seems like no one young, white and middle-class can write a pop song any more unless it's based on the life of an obscure 14th-century author-slash-serial killer and played entirely on pre-war synthesisers and different thicknesses of bark.
Thousands of brilliant ideas across an album that varies from moment to moment. Alex Tudor 2010 In 2007, Yeasayer were guaranteed attention with the double-whammy of African-influenced rhythms and a Williamsburg, Brooklyn address. Still, 2080 was one of the year’s best singles – Gang Gang Dance with pop sensibilities, or the Beta Band with sincerity.
As much of a surprise as Yeasayer was in 2007, looking back in retrospect, there is no doubt just how impressive they were in that they were able to combine so many elements of music into one sweeping plate of delightful food. It was a lot to consume and yet, they tidied it all up with an enchanting presence of craft and songwriting – not to mention a uniquely new take on Fleetwood Mac’s influence. But still, All Hour Cymbals took almost an entire year to catch wave of its startling excellence.