Odd Blood Import
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When I first discovered Yeasayer, I wasn't sure what I was listening to. It sounded like the soundtrack to a water park that runs on fever dreams and which caters to old souls inside young, sun-baked bodies. That's no good, though. It's poetic and all, but who really knows what I'm talking about? The point, really, is that they're good, unusual, and you should check them out.
ALL HOUR CYMBALS -- 5 stars
More raw instrumentation than you find in most bands, their first album has the coarse-granola-sensibility of a Rusted Root with the chaotic storytelling of an Animal Collective. Every song sounds like it was inspired by a bonfire, rocket launch, or church revival. There's an earthen, unwashed humanity to each tune, like the sound of a nerve being jangled and soothed at the same time. Standouts: "2080" (a bittersweet anthem with a bridge than never fails to give me goosebumps), "No Need To Worry" (another slow burning tune with an operatic and uplifting chord progression), and "Red Cave" (my favorite song of theirs so far; an incrementally aggressive mountain climber of a song that hits a dense joyful core at the end).
ODD BLOOD - 5 stars
The first song leads listeners to expect something darker and uglier than their debut record. "The Children" sounds like it was recorded in a flooded factory and then slowed down to give the vocals a mock-Waits-ish sound. I didn't care for it when I first heard it, and still don't. However, it was immediately followed by seven absolutely stellar tunes, starting with the playful, skip-to-my-loo beats of "Ambling Alp" and moving through to the retro-echoes of "Love Me Girl" and then on to my favorite of the album, the weird and slinky "Strange Reunions." Their sound is pulled closer to the chest in this album, and their vast collection of instruments is pared down in favor of more digitization, but the end result is no less uplifting or driven.
FRAGRANT WORLD - 4 stars
The electronic contraction that began in ODD BLOOD is fully realized here, and the end result is unfortunately a less approachable set of songs. It's almost as if they were attempting to parody some They All Sound The Same pop songs by skewering them with their trademark inventiveness, the end result being a lot of songs that sound like they could be great if only they'd settle down and figure out where they were headed. The backgrounds, vocals, instrumentation, and digitization is at a full frenzy, with none of it really cohering into something you can really sink your teeth into. I like grim-pop-propulsion of "Reagan's Skeleton," and "Folk Hero Shtick" is my favorite song off the album, with its bizarre braiding of a horror movie's mentality with a kid's show's pep tuned to an off key. There are only two songs I don't like ("No Bones" sounds like its insulting itself and "Glass of the Microscope" sounds like they slapped together remnants that they'd cut from four different songs), but the rest don't reach the same, grand heights as the group achieved in their previous two records. Still good, but no longer great. (Also, a head's up: I had serious downloading issues with this website's digital purchase for this album and had to get it via other means.)
So now that I've rambled on about why I think the two singles are so great, let's get into the rest of the album.
When I first popped the disc into my CD player I was instantly let down. Yes, "Children" could be considered a relatively effective intro track with its slowed down tempo and notions of "building up" for what is to come, but overall I wasn't really impressed. The beat and looped piano worked well, but it could have done without the distorted audio. "The Children" leads into "Ambling Alp", one of the catchiest songs of 2010 as of this writing. If by the end of this track you do not have the lyric "Stick up for yourself son" repeating in your head, this album is probably not for you. "Madder Red" is an epic sounding "indie rock ballad" with a solid hook and great vocals. It reminds me of their first album, All Hour Cymbals. "I Remember", and "O.N.E." are two more that are worth talking about.
The rest of the album is good, but nothing stands out in my mind as being something I want to hear repeatedly. Highlight tracks on the album include:
Odd Blood is the album that will help project Yeasayer more into the mainstream. While this album may be just a hair shy of commercial radio play, this is no indicator of success (by any means!). For those who have not heard their first album, it is definitely worth a listen - at a minimum, listen to the single "Sunrise."
As a side note, there is a "making of" studio tour video posted at Pitchfork, and if you are into the band go watch it, very cool.
Yes, it's more "new wave" than the debut, but it sounds like Yeasayer has grown and experimented and gone in new directions, not like they've abandoned their original sound or sold out as other reviewers have implied. There are bands that crank out the same sound album after album, but I much prefer a band who matures. I liked the first album but found this one more compelling.
This is not dancy pop, but strange and weird and middle-eastern influenced and dark, with a new techno direction. It sounded good in a mix with the Postal Service.
If you're unsure, buy O.N.E. -- I dare you to get it out of your head.