Yellow Ostrich
Strange Land


3.5
great

Review

by Matt Wolfe EMERITUS
March 18th, 2012 | 18 replies | 6,682 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The sound of a band becoming a band.

Back in 2009, Alex Schaaf was making modest music in a modest room. The moniker was Yellow Ostrich; the music was endearing, if overly humble bedroom-folk. Not much to write home about, but I’d made that point well enough in my review of that eponymous debut. I certainly didn’t think I’d be making two more self-referential (read: self-indulgent) introductions to two more Yellow Ostrich album reviews. But here we are. For one reason or another (most likely the desire to kill the prophecy of my first ramblings), I’ve glued myself to the development of Schaaf’s project, and his latest release, the appropriately titled Strange Land, sees his biggest move yet. He’s no longer working alone in a bedroom in Wisconsin, but joined in a bigger room in New York by two others – the duo of Jon Natchez and Michael Tapper creating a trio which forces Schaaf to relinquish his home comforts and, more importantly, a level of control.

It’s always a risk even taking one hand off the wheel, but it appears to have been a smart move for Schaaf as the dial on Strange Land swings more toward affability than calamity. The sound has been fleshed out, and whilst there is a definite ‘band’ feeling on Strange Land, it’s clear that this is still the founder’s project and the ideas are mostly his. Lead single ‘Marathon Runner’ rips its intro from a track on The Mistress almost identically and for a second it appears that they’re content to settle for tried-and-tested formulas. But the song develops into a catchy, guitar-driven slice of quality indie pop-rock with a personality all its own. Elsewhere, such as in the preceding ‘Daughter’, Schaaf utilizes his new recruits to build the scenery around his infectious hook of ‘we can make a deal, I know it’, driving it home with his strained plea backed by clashing cymbals. This is where the band sound works well; verses propelled to choruses by tambourines, horns and bombastic drums, but peeled away or complimentary when Schaaf knows to take centre stage himself with his distinctive, boyish vocals.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always stack up so neatly. The reverse does happen where good ideas are tarnished by an all hands on deck aesthetic. ‘I’ve Got No Time For You’ is a unique, warming, oddly moving number on Schaaf’s musings on a woman (presumably his grandmother) who died before he was born. It’s slow-moving and Schaaf’s vocals float along perfectly; it sounds as if the listener is following his train-of-thought – an uncalculated and pure daydream. But then the band appears, with an injudiciously distasteful entrance, and the banging and clanging drains the song of its power and purity. As a band, Yellow Ostrich is in its infancy, and it's forgiveable that they haven’t quite found the best way to show their hand both as a unit and as separate entities at this stage.

It would be unwise to say that the band should purely focus on Schaaf’s vocals. But using them smartly like Schaaf has repeatedly done in the past, situating them amongst unobtrusive guitar-work and/or throwing raw cuts together and layering them like a pile of autumn leaves, gives the band something different and may be imperative if they are to succeed. With Schaaf moving from his boyhood town in Wisconsin to the bright lights of New York and daring to transform his solo-project into a full-fledged band, Schaaf’s ambition to do just that can no longer be in doubt. Yes, it marks a sharp right turn in Yellow Ostrich’s progression, but since when did progression need to be linear? Whichever direction their frontman takes them in, current confidence suggests he’ll never be far away from a forward-path.



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user ratings (21)
Chart.
3.5
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
North0House2
March 18th 2012



5584 Comments


I remember when I picked his debut up years ago. I thought it was good, but later lost it when half of my hard drive got corrupted and I never went back to get it again.

I might give this a listen, it's cool that the guy's been moving forward in his endeavors. Good review.

Digging: Horseback - Piedmont Apocrypha

AtavanHalen
March 18th 2012



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The Mistress is just too good.

Have downloaded this, but haven't listened. Will do so now.

sailSAway
March 19th 2012



812 Comments


good stuff

AtavanHalen
March 19th 2012



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, this rules.

sailSAway
March 19th 2012



812 Comments


the mistress blew me....away.

Sejine
March 20th 2012



62 Comments


Listening right now.

In love with the drums on Stay at Home.

patrickfannon
March 21st 2012



884 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Spinning this in my car on the way to work. Pretty stoked after hearing "Elephant King."

artificialbox
March 21st 2012



628 Comments


Really enjoying this right now.

Minus The Flair
Emeritus
March 21st 2012



862 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

yeah its a shame more people aren't checking this out. the guy's a hard worker and his music is great - deserves to be heard by more.

probably should have gone with hyperbolic hype-train approach. that always seems to work around here.

patrickfannon
March 21st 2012



884 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is really an incredible album. I'm surpirsed you aren't geniunely hyped on this, Minus. The hallmarks of excellence haunt the details of this record.

patrickfannon
March 21st 2012



884 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I love this album. I think I'm going to see a lot more 4's and 4.5's in the next few months.

Minus The Flair
Emeritus
March 22nd 2012



862 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i think its great, i just don't think they're catching that sweet spot i know they could. if you like this then you should definitely check out the mistress.

patrickfannon
March 22nd 2012



884 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, I listened to The Mistress when it first came out on the recommendation of my friend jredmond. It's really cool, especially WHALE, but this record is just so much more mature, refined, and well-executed. "Stay At Home" is fucking awesome. I think this is a record that easily could start a Sputnik-style, runaway hype train, given the proper context and endorsement.

AtavanHalen
March 22nd 2012



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Still prefer The Mistress but this is great

Crimson
March 23rd 2012



1935 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

love this

Funeralopolis
March 26th 2012



10440 Comments


needs to shave

Digging: CunninLynguists - Oneirology

goingphishing
July 26th 2012



4 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Great video of Marathon Runner!

http://www.relix.com/video/live-at-relix/2012/06/29/yellow-ostrich-marathon-runner

Minus The Flair
Emeritus
July 26th 2012



862 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

that was great



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