Album Review: Yeasayer – Odd Blood




Expectations are a tricky thing. We all have them, but sometimes we put the object of that affection on such a high pedestal that those expectations are bound to be disappointed no matter what the outcome. What’s more, if you’re one of the lucky few that are constantly gratified by those expectations being met, you begin to lose the innocence and joy of life’s variability. You become dull, as does everything around you. Most of us, especially with the music we love, demand too much of a future we can’t see. Sometimes things work out, other times they don’t, but if you release your inhibitions and expectations of what “should” be, then disappointment becomes a rarity. After all, the best art is never what you expected in the first place.

It’s easy to say now, having listened to the record, but the surge that will follow Odd Blood was a long time coming for Yeasayer. They’re just too creative for it not to. As one of the purveyors of electro jungle jams, they’ve managed to step outside the box for their sophomore effort and find a sound that’s an imaginative, and surprising, departure from 2007’s All Hour Cymbals. An excellent record in its own right, it lacked the necessary punch they needed to get them out of their small time rut. Odd Blood is the upgrade that gives them staying power, and results in one of the top records of 2010 already.

The tracks are large and sweeping, each with a different flavor flowing between Peter Gabriel’s emotion and Talking Heads’ on Naked. Heavy loops and samples are used mostly in lieu of the usual instruments, taking away some of the organic structure from before, but without killing the natural feel. Vocal hooks lace the album together, showcasing some serious pipes that were hard to catch the first time around, but are now bigger with more bravado as Chris Keating shows off his range. “I Remember” has Keating crying out with swirling synths behind him. As just one of the electro heartbreakers found, they make up the sharpest departure from anything they’ve done. More than likely, this is where people will become the most divided over the record.

The most obvious change for the band is that they seem to have much more energy up front, and throughout, like with the disco blow out “O.N.E.” leading into funky and pulsing “Love Me Girl”. The first single, “Ambling Alp”, with its stand-up-for-the-little-guy message, also falls into this category of tracks that are soon to be classic Yeasayer. It’s the best stuff they’ve put out yet which shows that there’s some serious creative mojo happening on this record giving the needed life to their bohemian jams.

The record also has a strong back end with one of the best bouncing hyperactive eastern synth lines on a trampoline (“Rome”). “Strange Reunions” brings back the psychedelic, paced out tracks, this time fluffing the bridges with rippling guitars instead of the same old ambient textures. You half expect a sitar to show, but that just shows how easy it is to get wrapped up in music like this. Following with its hands in the air, “Mondegreen” brings the gospel heat with horns and handclaps revealing that, in the end, the band just wants you to dance. So even if you can’t stand the new feel of the group, there’s still something for the older fans, and that’s what the last few tracks are for.

Already, many people are throwing out the Animal Collective reference, but Odd Blood has too much pop to fit that bill. It’s a psychedelic record with an R&B soul, and with the two styles in their hands, you get something quite invigorating. Some will reject Odd Blood for not being Cymbals part two, but if it were just a replica, then the band wouldn’t have been themselves and would’ve gotten lost in the 2010 shuffle. If you leave pretension at the door, you may surprise yourself at how much you enjoy it.

What does Odd Blood teach us? That with Yeasayer, expect the unexpected. It’s a refreshing thing to see a band take creative risks for the sake of being themselves, and not what people hope they will be, and it has really paid off. Whether or not this is a new direction doesn’t matter. For now they ended up making a dance record, but who knows what could follow. There’s an odd comfort in not knowing what a band will sound like from one moment to the next, and that unpredictability will keep Yeasayer on the tips of people tongues for quite some time. For now though, let your freak flag fly.