Yeasayer – Odd Blood

In 2009, the Psychpop band to beat was Animal Collective; Merriweather Post Pavilion and the later Fall Be Kind EP were and will continue to be the benchmark for the genre, along with others like Neon Indian, Super Furry Animals, and of course the Flaming Lips. Well, it seems that January is just the time for this kind of thing, because lo-and-behold, Yeasayer, a band everyone seems to only kind of remember (Even though their debut was damn good), have set the bar pretty high for 2010. Odd Blood is a damn good album full of tried-and-true psychedelic troupes that while not necessarily new, still sound surprisingly fresh.

Many upon first listen will undoubtedly compare this album to Merriweather Post Pavilion, which isn’t exactly undeserved; songs like “Strange Reunions”and “I Remember” sound like Pavilion B-sides and there is just something about the ambient noises they use to bookend songs that just scream Geologist. However, this isn’t to say that they are a rip-off or anything equally extreme. What Yeasayer offer is a more casual-listener friendly and overall more accessible take on the formula that recent bands have been farming for years. The guitars are recognizable, the synth tones stay well within the realms of Electropop-style sounds, the beats are often accompanied with catchy hand-claps, the singing of Anand Wilder is clear, restrained, and effective;the list goes on. Yeasayer are looking for broad appeal on this album, more so than even Merriweather ventured, and in most respects, it succeeds.

Does this make it a better album than Animal Collective’s latest LP? No, but that is by no means to say it is undeserving of attention. The beats are fluid, the synth are well-pronounced, and almost every song on the album is incredibly catchy. To put it another way, this is basically Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix by way of Psychic Chasms. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if you heard “Love Me Girl” on a car commercial or “Ambling Amp” in an upcoming film. Many cried foul when Phoenix started loaning out their songs to commercial to commercial, but the jump of Guitar-centric, hook-laden Phoenix to the synth-driven, equally hook-laden Yeasayer will be quite a jump for the general public. The prostitution of Neon Indian’s “Deadbeat Summer” by way of Disney Channel stars for “indie cred” leaps immediatly to mind when it comes to the determent fame offers, but this is to ignore the position of the band, who I’m sure appreciates the boost in sales.

Tangents aside, Odd Blood is an album of many strong songs, however when it comes to stand-outs, it’s between the percussion-heavy, vocal hooks of “Ambling Amp” and the up-tempo synth rave of “Rome”. “Ambling Amp” is your traditional single, with the chorus being the catchiest part of the song, however to call it simply the obvious single would sell it short; there is some serious substance on this track. “Rome” is by far the liveliest song on the album, with a strict up-tempo signature and various single second interludes that complement the song very nicely. However, “Mondegreen”, only one track after “Rome”, is another great dance song, and album closer “Grizelda” has a great emphasis on a grooup of backing vocals that spiral downward as Wilder’s voice extends out and wanders along with them, bringing the album to a close. It works very well, to say the least.

Although, at the end of the day, if there was a main weakness to the album, it’s the unambitiousness of the entire affair. Every song is clean, commercially-viable; this is a single’s album. It’s obvious what they’re aiming for, and the album itself suffers a bit due to the linearity of the album. There is no rising action, there is not falling action, there is no crescendo, etc. It all works well, yet not because of their context within the album. The album also just lacks that kind of idiosyncrasy that All Hour Cymbals had; the exotic choices of instruments, the percussion-heavy drumming, the wandering, ambient backing vocals. All of these things are all but absent on this affair in favor of the easier sound. Odd Blood is still the stronger album, however, the entire affair comes off a bit uninspired.

Still, Odd Blood is an all-around strong album with great songs; that’s about as easily as you could put it. With a much more Electropop direction than their contemporaries, they make a sound that is both accessible and fluid, with no single song on the album faltering. The album is a far cry from their very exotic, xenocentric debut, and while Odd Blood is no where near as idiosyncratic as All Hour Cymbals, the album boasts a much more stronger set of songs. I wouldn’t be surprised if you starting hearing “Ambling Amp” everywhere you go, however, don’t let that cheapen it for you. This might just be 2010’s Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Score: B

by Trevor “Animal Collective Fanboy Extraordinaire” Johnson

1 Comment

  1. New Stuff For Everyone on 2/7/10! « Avery Island: Musical Opinions From Music Geeks said,

    […] Yeasayer – Odd Blood Review, by Trevor Johnson […]

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