yeasayer odd blood
  • TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 09, 2010

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The first few minutes of Odd Blood hit like a gargantuan machine waking up: gears are grinding, the low rumbled voice of what could be Chris Keating, or an amalgamation of the band's collected vocals chopped up and reprocessed, spewing difficult to understand lyrics, and the horns are obscured by the sound of metal works and synthetic propulsion, all coming together like a robot being built and charged. Upon first listening all preconceived notions of Yeasayer are left at the launch pad, and you better get ready for blast-off. These guys are not joking when they reinvent their psych-pop wheel. They've ditched drums for pads, organic harmonies for reverberated cries, and tribal chants for futuristic loops. In short, at first it feels like a hallucinogenic trip, and then it melts away into pure genius.

First glimpses of tracks like "Ambling Alp" and "Love Me Girl" left mouths agape back in the fall. I remember, I was one of those mouths. The pair are nothing like Yeasayer's debut, the natural sounding All Hour Cymbals (which, while excellent, fell flat towards the end). Plenty of questions about the goings on up at Woodstock abounded the blogs, what is this new sound? Can it all be this good? The rhythmic obsession still pulsates through the tracks, something that the band has become notorious for perpetrating. But the aesthetic is so wildly different that I wouldn't be surprised if people barely recognized their old work when looking back. There will be plenty of new bandwagon fans after this record, and I won't try to be all cool about it. This shouldn't be a I-knew-them-first situation. This is a benchmark in mind-blowing. I've shared this with everyone I know and love. They should teach Odd Blood in public schools.

Even though I'm pretty sure it isn't (and I intend to ask the band as soon as possible), Odd Blood feels like an epic narrative. The wary cries of independence "stick up for yourself son/never mind what anybody else done" to the love and humility "It's getting hard to keep pretending/I'm worth your time" to the "Love Me Girl", to the maniacal claims "They'll search day and night/Can't forget what you did"... there is an idea at play here, a concept of Odd Blood being the arc of a regrettable life. We emancipate, find love, and abandon it for success. I think everyone ignored "Rome" upon first listen, for its blatant departure from the previous tracks. I didn't like it either. But now I see it as the departure from the hopeful melancholy of the front half, into a deranged megalomaniacal conclusion. Conquest, the schizophrenic "Strange Reunions", forced intimacy "I just can't justify my love", and the somewhat optimistic funeral echoes of "Grizelda", all make perfect sense.

This might all be in my head. But that is the beauty of Odd Blood, it takes the listener on a journey like nothing else I've heard in recent times. Yeasayer toe the line between thirst-quenching pop, like "I Remember" and "Ambling Alp" with awe-inspired words and thoughts. In particular "O.N.E.", with its flipped phrases ("It's hard having fun/it's much easier said than it's done") rattles the brain, as the bass line propels into a pretty stellar second bridge, which sounds like a ghost in the machine of the old Yeasayer.

The momentum of the adrenaline tracks is matched by the beauty of tracks like "I Remember", which ruminates on the phrase "You're stuck in my mind/all the time" with a broken record of fluttering falsetto synths and Keating's high-pitched soft voice guiding them. Breaking this track down is relatively easy, as it seems like there are very few instruments. However, cutting it apart is like looking inside the human body... intricate parts morph and rehash as the melody progresses. Listening closely I noticed the piano part slowly moving up octaves, the myriad of background noises all compounding to make specific sounds, and the complex arpeggios all working together and independently at once, like a well-tuned machine.

Odd Blood is more machine than man on paper, but the amount of soul pumped into these tracks is more than enough to connect (not to mention captivate). "Love Me Girl" even has a built in heartbeat for the initial build up, coaxing us in "Nothing is wrong/What are you scared of?" For many, the strange landscape of music is something so morbidly polarizing that no one expected an album of half eighties noises, half acid trip to be so engrossing. And yet, last year bands like Animal Collective won the accolades by stretching sounds to new, experimental pop circuits. If you compare the two (Odd Blood and "My Girls" for example), it seems more and more that Yeasayer continued down the mainstream path and into glorious territory. While bands like Beach House and Grizzly Bear continue to develop a pretty brand of orchestral pop, Yeasayer is on another orbit with their trajectory, and it seems like they could fly right through the sun and back with this record. Just like great movies make you forget you're even in a theater, Odd Blood seems to erase the world around the listener.

It's been said, and it belongs here: it's 2010 you guys, and this is what we should be listening to. Yeasayer has created a monster; an android comprised of human parts, running on batteries and memories, equipped with the audio equivalent of a shotgun blowing your brains all over the wall (metaphorically speaking). Simply put, this is great, great, great music. By the time these forty minutes are over, it's like waking up from a lucid dream... one where you fall in love. You remember what it feels like, even if it's been a while.-joe puglisi

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MP3:"Ambling Alp" - Odd Blood
Yeasayer on Myspace

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