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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