When Yeasayer released All Hour Cymbals in 2007, the trio, Anand Wilder, Chris Keating and Ira Wolf Tuton, unleashed a sound that blended the organic concepts of the Middle East with harshly industrial and electronic components. It was an aesthetic that caught the music community largely off-guard and led to moderate success in the indie community, making their newest release highly anticipated upon its announcement.
But the Yeasayer that produced 2007’s All Hour Cymbals is nearly as mysterious and mythical on their new release, Odd Blood, as their own otherworldly sound.
Instead, with their debut and this new release, it’s a struggle between opposing forces — the international battling the intergalactic, the naturalistic against the synthetic — a distinct dissonance between debut and sophomore albums that may disappoint avid listeners of the band’s Middle Eastern synth-pop aesthetic.
Yet this exploration to the edge of synthesization’s boundaries is welcome, and Yeasayer are worthy navigators of the territory, showcasing on Odd Blood that audiology is certainly their craft. Tracks transition from haunting (“The Children”) to jubilant (“Ambling Alp”) with ease, while melodies flow gracefully with Chris Keating’s vocals at the helm.
That being said, untangling the threads of Odd Blood takes time. Tracks that reach the level of approachability found on All Hour Cymbals are few and far between, though this release is somewhat frontloaded with its more commercially pleasing tracks. Both singles, “Ambling Alp” and “O.N.E.” appear here, the former a lighthearted pop tune in its purest form layered in reverb. The latter is a calypso-tinged danceable number, with lyrics like “No/ You don’t move me anymore/ And I’m glad that you don’t” ringing out with rebellion against an aggressor.
And it’s on this release Yeasayer finds itself more lyrically honest than the debut. “I Remember” finds Keating unabashedly recounting a love come and gone. Although on paper the song reads like the bellows of the lovesick, adolescent heart, Keating delivers them with such earnest that lines like, “I remember making out on the airplane/ Still afraid of flying, but with you’d I’d die today” feel like both relatable and genuine in their exploration of love and, eventually, loss.
With “Love Me Girl,” which could easily be a lost b-side from TV on the Radio’s Dear, Science with Keating’s lilting vocals and funk edge, the three-set wanders into new worlds, following up with tracks that meander — and sometimes, though rarely, stumble — in new directions. “Strange Reunions” is a psychedelic journey closest in theme to All Hour Cymbals, but its Middle Eastern influence feels more subdued with sitar-like synthesizing rather than grand chants and booming orchestral numbers.
The only minor misstep on this album is “Mondegreen,” a track somewhat clumsy in its construction with its mish-mash of synthesized drones, saxophones and claps. It’s this combination which produces a pacing so frenetic compared with the album’s accompanying tracks that Keating seems to be tripping over his vocals just to keep up.
Yeasayer extends itself far past its origins on Odd Blood by manipulating vocals, waves and lyrics to produce an album more mystical than the debut. And while Odd Blood is certainly strange, it’s a type of weird that is welcome.
4 stars out of 5.