CD Review : Yeasayer, “Odd Blood”

Yeasayer’s Odd Blood has been one of this year’s the most highly anticipated indie albums. It follows the Brooklyn psychedelic rockers’ creative and experimental 2007 debut, All Hour Cymbals, in which full harmonies and electronic synthesizers were used to produce solid songs (think “2080” and “Forgiveness”). So, expectations were high for Odd Blood, particularly when undeniably catchy pre-release single “Ambling Alp” dropped earlier this year.

On “Ambling Alp,” Chris Keating urgently sings the upbeat chant-a-long lyrics (“stick up for yourself, son!”) over complex, yet easily interpretable dance-y rhythms. But underneath the pop sensibility, you can still hear what made All Hour Cymbals so interesting; a steady dose of unpredictable electronic waves, experimental beeps and wisely-placed horns.

The album’s opener, which flows (strangely, but somehow seamlessly) into “Ambling Alp,” is another story, however. “The Children” is a sluggish dirge of heavy thumping; it sounds as if it has been slowed down, making the lyrics and vocals completely inaudible. Deep and obscure rhythms, synthesized melodies and the occasional bar of piano are all thrown into the mix. Yeasayer throws a curveball by opening Odd Blood with a track that sounds nothing like Yeasayer.

Elsewhere, the band melds ’80s electronic dance rhythms and an obvious reggae influence, like on the dance-friendly track, “ONE.” Again, they are anything but sonically predictable: the electronic layering and falsetto of Keating’s voice make for an interesting blend. It seems the band has moved away from the chanting and grand harmonies of All Hour Cymbals, in favor of Keating’s melodic and at times delicate voice. And while Yeasayer’s careful attentiveness to rhythm and individual sounds on Odd Blood has produced a few well-done singles, it is also responsible, on the other hand, for some over-done and cluttered material. I found tracks like “Strange Reunion” and “Mondegreen” excessively repetitive, mirroring the gargled noisiness of “The Children.” Indeed, there is a considerable amount of filler here, which stands out on a just-under-40-minute 10-track album.

That said, when Yeasayer does something right, they really do it right. They manage to balance dynamic and intricate rhythms of perfectly layered synthesizers and interesting instrumental effects. This is also complimented by the power of Keating’s voice, another essential element of Yeasayer’s carefully crafted songs.

3.5 stars out of 5