Plumbiferous Media

Odd Blood - Yeasayer

Feb 11th 2010
Odd Blood - YeasayerYeasayer
Odd Blood
Score: 84

NYC psych-exper­i­men­tal band Yeasay­er, found­ed in 2006, released their sec­ond LP, Odd Blood, on the 9th. With Odd Blood, Yeasay­er has refined and expand­ed their musi­cal reper­toire, cre­at­ing ten elec­tric, col­or­ful pieces of music. Though Odd Blood isn’t per­fect, it is always inter­est­ing - and the joy and gen­er­al emo­tion that Yeasay­er put into the album clear­ly shows through in the music.

The very first thing notice­able about Odd Blood is how pow­er­ful it can be. The decay­ing sound, empha­sized by high­ly dis­tort­ed vocals, lethar­gic tem­po, and tone bend­ing is as much an emo­tion­al expe­ri­ence as it is a track, at once beau­ti­ful, fright­en­ing, and over­whelm­ing­ly force­ful. It is, how­ev­er, not fair to say that Odd Blood main­tains this pow­er through the album. The sub­se­quent two tracks serve as tran­si­tion from the extreme of “The Chil­dren” to the rest of the album, with the fair­ly relaxed vocals serv­ing as odd con­trast to the still gen­er­al­ly pow­er­ful instrumentals.

From this point, Odd Blood moves to a sig­nif­i­cant­ly catch­i­er, less stren­u­ous sound. And while it’s cer­tain­ly a shame that there is no sec­ond “The Chil­dren,” Yeasay­er cer­tain­ly does­n’t trig­ger any strong feel­ings of resent. Indeed, the lev­el to which Yeasay­er has pulled off simul­ta­ne­ous catch­i­ness and extreme odd­i­ty, a dif­fi­cult feat, is very sat­is­fy­ing, and the catch­i­ness ser­vices the unmod­i­fied side of vocals much more suc­cess­ful­ly than the more dynam­ic tracks did. This is, how­ev­er, not to say that the vocals set­tle on being per­fect­ly nor­mal for the remain­ing two thirds of the album.

As befits such an exper­i­men­tal album as Old Blood, vocal­ist Chris Keat­ing’s voice is altered in as many ways as there are tracks, from the robot­ic drone that intro­duces the album with “The Chil­dren,” to the syn­thy falset­to of “Ambling Alp.” It’s a more cre­ative vocal approach than Yeasay­er’s first album (though that cer­tain­ly was­n’t a slouch in the realm of inno­va­tion), and it pays off. Yeasay­er is clear­ly good at fig­ur­ing out what to do with Keat­ing’s voice to make it fit in or stick out as tracks demand, though there are cer­tain­ly places where this works bet­ter than oth­ers - the afore­men­tioned “The Chil­dren” and “O.N.E.” are great exam­ples of the album’s best suc­cess­es. Occa­sion­al overuse detracts from the effect, but it’s most­ly com­pen­sat­ed for with the music.

Lyri­cal­ly, Old Blood is equal­ly about images as it is about sto­ries, which works nice­ly with the the album’s ever-chang­ing sound. The lyrics aren’t always the deep­est (or the most com­pre­hen­si­ble) - but when Keat­ing sings “If I learned one thing / The tat­too on my arm will burn into my thumb,” regard­less of how much sense it makes, he makes it fit the music. Even bet­ter are the tracks with more inter­est­ing lyrics, includ­ing the rather dark con­clu­sion to Old Blood, “Grizel­da,” on which Keat­ing sings “Every hour of the day / There’s a whis­per inside of her brain / Telling me who to kill / Telling me who will live” and “I know / Every hour you’re awake / They’ll be upping the price on your head / And now you’re in reach / So watch where you sleep.” But what­ev­er approach to lyrics each track of Old Blood takes, Yeasay­er (with a few excep­tions) is quite good at match­ing both lyri­cal con­tent and com­plex­i­ty to the music, as well as keep­ing the lyrics interesting.

There are cer­tain­ly some losers on Old Blood. Tracks near the end are much like­ly to evoke an over­all feel­ing of “eh” than pret­ty much any­thing else on the album, and Yeasay­er does have a ten­den­cy to drag on for sig­nif­i­cant­ly longer than nec­es­sary, for exam­ple, at the begin­ning of “Love Me Girl.” Still, these weak­er tracks and sec­tions are more than off­set by the dri­ving beat of “Rome” and the elec­tron­i­cal­ly dri­ven, push­ing, yet still fair­ly calm “Mad­der Red,” among many, many oth­er excel­lent ele­ments of Old Blood. Old Blood is, tak­en as a whole, noth­ing short of a ter­rif­ic album.

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