Review Summary: On Odd Blood, Yeasayer are quite content to make cool yet easy pop music, ultimately keeping themselves as the band to check out if you like (better indie bands).
While there’s nothing particularly wrong with Brooklyn based Yeasayer, they have the unfortunate problem of being stuck on the periphery of “hip.” While their 2007 debut All Hour Cymbals
was deservedly critically acclaimed, the reviews often contextualized Yeasayer with other bands in order to give potential listeners some point of reference while diagnosing the band as good albeit somewhat inconsequential electro pop. This kind of forced association is the curse of being such a band lingering on the edge of cool; a destiny of reviews featuring some variant on “(X band) is part of (kooky revivalist movement) therefore sounds like (superior bands in kooky movement mixed together).” In Yeasayer’s case, the problem is which superior bands in said kooky revivalist movement are they aping and who in said movement is doing what they do, but better.
With All Hour Cymbals
, publications such as Pitchfork and cokemachineglow wasted no time in citing an Eno-era Talking Heads influence and lumping the act in with A-list indie rockers such as Animal Collective and Arcade Fire. Unfortunately, the problem with all this citing and lumping is that Yeasayer are, quite simply, not of the same caliber of the bands they cite and are lumped with. What Yeasayer did on All Hour Cymbals
was pull together an impressive amalgam of influences to craft impressive songs which, although not particularly groundbreaking or spectacular themselves, suggested a great future potential. Yeasayer’s sophomore release, Odd Blood
, also suggests potential, but never quite hits it or really strives to hit it. Instead, it appears the band is quite content to make cool yet easy pop music: catchy, mostly harmless, never really unpleasant, but ultimately fated to keep Yeasayer as the band to check out if you like (better indie bands).
And so, since Odd Blood
lacks anything particularly special to separate Yeasayer from a pack of buzz bands, the name dropping game can again be played in earnest. Odd Blood
has a remarkable ability to compliment well-versed hipsters while being just original enough to highlight Yeasayer’s not-inconsiderable skill. One can hear shades of Klaxons on “Madder Red,” David Byrne on “I Remember,” and a lovely marriage of Animal Collective and fun. on the album’s lead single and strongest track “Ambling Alp,” with Yeasayer borrowing, in addition to each of the bands’ sonic palette, their influences' ability to make the slight sound inviting and lovely. Odd Blood
isn’t as trippy or challenging as its cover, which could well be a depiction of the result of opening the Ark of the Covenant in the year 2200, would suggest. Instead, Yeasayer place themselves squarely in 80s pop bliss, with hooky synthesizers, jumpy bass and echoing snares grounding the celebration vocalist Chris Keating is zealously hosting. Keating’s vocals waver between impassioned and campy, but they generally fit Odd Blood
’s style. Nothing is meant to be subtle on Odd Blood
; Yeasayer instead up the glam and the geeky sense of cool.
But where does this leave Odd Blood
? All the sheen and glitter adorning almost every moment of the album leaves Odd Blood
sounding eerily shallow. It doesn’t have much else to offer than its face value, providing no depth to its stream of well crafted pop tunes. Instead, Odd Blood
delivers a series of earworms that are undeniably catchy but leave a legitimate question in their wake: why should we care? Yeasayer ultimately fails to answer this question, and Odd Blood
sort of just runs its course unimpressively. The record’s theme appears to be “dance, feel good,” but it lacks the pathos necessarily to make it believable. There are a few stray lines that stick, particularly on “Ambling Alp,” a track whose melody makes “Stick up for yourself son! Never mind what anybody else wants” simply irresistible, but mostly the hooks come from jumbled clichés and oddly flat choruses. The latter half of the album finds a series cool-as-fuck
struts buttressed by a general shallowness that renders the songs generally irritating. For example, a song like “Rome” can have the best hook on the album yet winds up feeling trite and annoying with nothing but “whoa, it’s gonna be mine/ it’s just a matter of- it’s just a matter of time” serving as the chorus. It’s this kind of directionless charm that makes Odd Blood
feel, well, odd. The songs are good; they just don’t have the emotional core necessary to supplement their barrage of hooks.
With Odd Blood
, it appears that Yeasayer want to bring the party and play the role of the philandering bachelor well. But this bachelor is also destined to a life of playing second fiddle to the better man; sure, he’s fun, and you might even take him home, but let’s not kid ourselves. You don’t commit to spending the rest of your life with fuck