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Yeasayer - The breakthrough album or " diet Animal Collective"?
on 1 February 2010
The Amazon editorial review creates a thesis of the classic "game of two halves" when it comes to Yeasayer's new album "Odd Blood". Thus one side of the album is straightforward pop music while the other is more "experimental". A deeper listen of this album suggests that this theory is perhaps a little too orderly and neat. "All hour cymbals" the debut by Yeasayer is a personal favourite and the songs Sunrise and the epic "2080" (with its "Yeah Yeah" refrain) should be sought out immediately if you have not yet heard the band and their "Middle Eastern-Psych-Pop-Snap-Gospel" (the bands description not mine!). Yeasayer are part of sonic boom that occurred when the Brooklyn conveyor belt started churning a few years back and produced contemporaries like Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors, the Antlers, MGMT and more recently White Rabbits. No one can quite pin down what's happening on the far side of New York's East River with it becoming the "indie" capital of the planet in the same way that Seattle begat "grunge". What we do know it that for many Yeasayer have the potential to the greatest of all these bands. This clearly is a big claim and is it just another large and potentially insurmountable bit of music hype or proper recognition of the huge potential showed on AHC?
"Odd Blood" starts with the "The Children". Its industrial in its feel, has a distorted vox form vocals and is eerie and oppressive. Frankly it would be a bizarre opener to any an album and its a terrible start. Its crunchy sludge motif continues into "Amblin Alp" the first single.But then suddenly this transforms into the album into electropop dance music with a song chock full of catchy hooks and reggae bounce with a great vocal by Chris Keating. It is the lead single from the album, has been out for months and for some reason reminds me of Heaven 17. It's fine but is it as special as what follows?
The heart of the album comprises three key songs "Madder Red", I Remember and O.N.E. All the anticipation and hype which has gone into "Odd Blood" is fully justified here. "Madder Red" is a guitar led anthem and it's a beast. It's probably the most rock orientated song the band has produced yet and works perfectly. "1 Remember" alternatively is a wall of bubbling synths and much gentler but with Keating's yearning vocal repeating "you're stuck in my mind, all the time". A truly gorgeous collective performance by Anand Wilder, Chris Keating and Ira Wolf Tuton and the best song on the album and with Beach House's "Norway" the best pop song I have heard this year. Next up is "O.N.E" which is destined to be the song of the summer, a joyous roaring pop song that will be remixed to death and which will set the dancers going wild in festivals across Europe (it also could have sat happily on "Dare" by the Human League; anyone detect a theme here?)
Amazon "two halves" theory then falls apart for the next two songs since there is no sharp break. The excellent "Love Me Girl" starts off as a Pet Shop boys style synth riff and then at 1.55 turns in a Prince style funk work out. "Rome" is in many respects one of the most "poppy" songs on the album and is by Yeasayer standards fairly straightforward and very commercial. "Strange Reunions" is probably the darkest song on the album (with the exception of "The Children) and actually reminds of me of Talk Talk. It is a nice change of mood. Alternatively "Mondegreen" is in this reviewer's view a bit of a duffer, the chorus and lyrics could be straight out of a Wham song and before the song ends the relentless wretched hand clapping leads to the fast forward button being pushed. All can be forgiven however with "Grizelda" which sounds like a Bowie song from his "Low" or "Heroes" era and is genuinely lovely and a real favourite.
Have Yeasayer cracked it then? In my view while this album perhaps lacks the haunting depth of "Veckatimest" and the downright sheer exhilaration of "Merriweather", it carves its own niche. The missteps are kept to a minimum (The Children) and "Mondegreen" could have been happily replaced by "Tightrope" from the Dark is the Night compilation. "Odd Blood" is hugely commercial but also has real edge, qualities that they share with mentors Talking Heads. But let us stop rambling, Yeasayer have hit a rich seam with Odd Blood and it will be one of most enjoyable albums of 2010.