Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Yeasayer - Odd Blood

The definition of “yeasayer” is “a person with a positive, confident outlook.” While this can certainly represent the attitude of a young, talked-about band, it’s also strangely fitting of their music. The songs on Yeasayer’s second album, Odd Blood, aren’t as clean or catchy as work by contemporaries like Passion Pit or MGMT, but the overall mood is just as bright underneath. The band’s Myspace page lists their genre—perhaps honestly—as visual/gospel/showtunes.

With Blood, Yeasayer excels in blending eclectic, rhythmic backing arrangements with relatively sensible vocal melodies. On an album this chaotic, though, it’s hard to make a more specific description of the group’s mentality. The artists clearly went out of their way to create a dynamic experience for the listener, utilizing vocal distortion, time signatures, and often downright strange elements to keep the element of surprise. This exploratory attitude lends itself to longer arrangements (50% of the songs play past the four-minute mark); the creativity is appreciated, but at times the pacing suffers, as less-interesting songs get drawn out with unexplainable riffs. There’s often not enough musical footing for the listener to navigate the album’s surreal, shifting heights.

Standout track “O.N.E.” showcases the band at full stride. A stream of alternating syncopated beats echo over an ever-present kick drum, while simple, searing lyrics (“Hold me like you used to, control me like you used to,”) float over an arrangement that phases between dance and contemplative pop. “I Remember,” the clearest song on the album, shows that Yeasayer are completely capable of recording eminently listenable music. The lyrics are almost always clearly defined, reinforcing the welcome mindset of vocals being the backbone of the band’s music, around which the complex instrumentation can be built.

Although Odd Blood proves that Yeasayer is anything but derivative, it also shows that a sophomore album should do more than expand repertoire—it should distill the group’s sound into a recognizable brand. Music should be unique by virtue of coherency, rather than by using broad attitudes of experimentation. Expect to hear good things from Yeasayer as they continue to mature in their development as a band and pin down that positive, confident sound.

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