| POSTED BY: MALCOLM DONALDSON
On Yellow Ostrich's website, songwriter Alex Schaaf says of the band's new full length: The Mistress (their last album) was a guy in a bedroom, and the new one (Strange Land) is a band. In a slightly bigger room. This goes a long way in explaining Strange Land's best moments and its limitations. Yellow Ostrich has a terrific amount of instrumental variation, using brass and woodwinds to spice up the typical rock band dynamic. Schaaf is a talented looper, expanding his voice to become another instrument of the group. But Yellow Ostrich only occupies a slightly bigger sound than Schaaf's bedroom. The ten songs on Strange Land employ different musical techniques, but don't contain the emotional variety of a larger group effort.
Schaaf's voice sounds childlike and it matches his imaginative, innocent lyrics. When he sings he oscillates between emotions like 'happy,' 'hopeful' and 'earnest.' It would have helped to hear a couple other voices on the album help out with harmonies or fill in the low-end with a deeper voice. Yellow Ostrich has a big bag of musical tricks, with strong electric guitar solos on tracks like "The Shakedown" and complex horn cries on "When All is Dead." The best parts of the album are experimental. Sometimes the chord progressions and melodies are predictable and the Coldplay style drum thumping gets old. Methods like looping (see "Marathon Runner") set Yellow Ostrich apart from most bands, sounding at moments like a male version of tUnE-yArDs.
Strange Land certainly shows the young band heading in a good direction. Yellow Ostrich proves that they have the tools to make a greater album, now they just have to use those tools to say more, to get into a bigger room, and to get just a little bit weirder.