Since the release of their critically acclaimed debut, All Hour Cymbals (2007), YEASAYER has been around the world and back again. While their first record was conceived in total artistic isolation, constant touring forced Yeasayer to finally engage with their contemporaries. Inspired by musicians hell-bent on sonic experimentation as well as those more comfortable in a pop context, Yeasayer found their domain spanning across the musical spectrum. Studied, road-worn, and eager to begin Phase Two, Yeasayer retreated to upstate New York to begin work on their new album, titled Odd Blood (released February 2, 2010).
If All Hour Cymbals was Yeasayer’s attempt at global and ambient cultural mash-up then Odd Blood takes place in an off-world colony sometime after the Singularity. Glimmering reverb haze is eschewed and replaced by a cavalcade of disorienting pitch effects and flickering ectoplasmic wisps. Instead of layered vocal harmonies the processed vocals congeal into blots and blobs of otherworldly chatter. Many organic elements are left behind and replaced by sounds and rhythms that inspire the body as much as the mind. At times Yeasayer sound as if they would be at home playing live in a scene from Blade Runner or inside one of Oscar Neimeyer’s concrete modernist temples from the 1960s.
Odd Blood is an album divided into two halves; the first being top heavy with pop songs, while the latter full of the playful and strange:
Side One. The album begins with “The Children,” a twisted, chopped, and screwed stomp, full of sub bass and spooky keyboards. Distorted vocals create hidden hooks and it’s immediately clear: this isn’t the same Yeasayer. After the rubble clears the album leaps into Yeasayer’s versions of the pop anthem, with “Ambling Alp,” “Madder Red,” “I Remember,” and “O.N.E.” Yeasayer has plunged into the craft of pop music, and the exercise has paid off.
Side Two. The second half of Odd Blood is slightly more experimental in nature. Sci-fi musical jams (“Mondegreen”), maniacal rants (“Grizelda”), and paranoia (“Love Me Girl”) show the band exploring more paranoid motifs, yet never deprive the listener of hooks or ear candy.
Odd Blood plays out at a blistering pace, yet never sacrifices depth or content. It is immediately evident the band has advanced in songwriting as well as sonic craft. Lyrically, it is a more mature and honest album than the first, as the band demonstrates a confidence to explore more personal themes alongside vividly depicted tales. One thing is certain: Yeasayer are accomplished audiologists who are willing to pilfer decades of pop sensibilities and cultural history to create something that is uniquely their own.