It’s hard to believe that it’s only been a few years since Yeasayer made their national debut at 2007’s SXSW. Their first and only other release, All Hour Cymbals catapulted the Brooklyn-based quartet – renowned for the precarious balance they hold between avant-garde and pop – through indie music’s crowded scene. But with less focus on the clean lines and easy accessibility of Vampire Weekend or MGMT, Yeasayer’s compositions lead them squarely left-of-center, and likewise prone to becoming overtly esoteric as they chase an ever-expanding frontier of possible sound. Consequentially, their second release, Odd Blood, has been eagerly anticipated as fans and critics alike perch themselves to witness the band’s successful tight rope walk, or fall from grace.
Odd Blood works when it doesn’t feel like Yeasayer is experimenting, or more accurately, when they’re inventions are so intuitive that you just can’t tell. Computer aided wizardry beneath the surface is entirely surplus on gems like the percolating “Ambling Alp,” or “O.N.E.,” with its intro immediately reminiscent of Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime.” These songs simply feel good, and hypnotize listeners by way of verses that build tensions to frenzied peaks, and euphoric releases during choruses of addictive one liners much like “You’re stuck in my mind, all the time,” (“I Remember”) and “Rome is gonna be mine, it’s just a matter of time” (“Rome”). And though the lyrics aren’t particularly profound, they fair well with Chris Keating’s delivery, his visceral howl on par with the reckless abandon of Ghostland Observatory’s Aaron Behrens.
The holes in Odd Blood predominantly come by way of meandering explorations that seem to have neither a destination or purpose. “Grizelda” approaches the Flaming Lips sense of forbiding epicness on “In the Morning of the Magicians,” but at little over two minutes and half, the short song can’t fully realize its potential, and just comes off as incomplete. “Mondegreen” feels like a bizzaro version of Passion Pit’s “Sleepyhead,” both sharing a back bone built on claps and vocodor breakdowns, while “Love Me Girl” comes off as a theatrical version of a 80’s pop tune, with a singy-songy soliloquy and all. But rather then being contagious, both songs prove grating as their persistent dissonance and mishandled temperant quickly get under your skin. But ultimately, even these missteps can’t drag down the helium injected highs of Odd Blood.
This album works because its successful experiments prove so grand as to overshadow any shortcomings. At the core of that winning formula: a foundation of blissful songs that euphorically leap from their digital coding by virtue of elaborate verses impeccably timed with pitch-perfect choruses. Indeed, excluding critics, the experiment with sounds throughout this album come only in after thought, as listener attention is wholly focused on the vibe and feel of a song, rather then any perceived reinvention of indie music. Like Animal Collective’s best of 2009, list-topping, Merriweather Post Pavilion, the cerebral rarely overtakes the instinctive on Odd Blood, and Yeasayer prevents good songs from falling prey to over zealous experimentation. Yet again, they’ve traversed the tight rope of avant-garde and pop with remarkable results.