Plumbiferous Media

The Mistress – Yellow Ostrich

Oct 24th 2010
One Comment
The Mistress - Yellow OstrichYellow Ostrich
The Mistress
Score: 76

Although The Chairs, which produced our favorite album of 2009, seems to have disbanded, lead singer Alex Schaaf has continued under the moniker of Yellow Ostrich. His newest release is The Mistress, possibly his strangest album yet. But while it maintains that extremely distinct sound of The Chairs and Yellow Ostrich’s previous releases, the strangeness seems to have gone just a tad overboard with The Mistress. There is quite a lot to commend on the album, but the overall sound just isn’t very cohesive, and the confusion that results prevents it from being yet another truly outstanding album.

Weakest among the elements of The Mistress are the instrumentals. Very little on The Mistress is as catchy as This Isn’t a Fire Fortress, nor is any track as emotionally weighty as Nine Ways. And while that’s acceptable in and of itself – The Mistress is allowed to be its own entity – the instrumentals really don’t have much going for them at all. Their primary goal seems to be to support Schaaf’s vocals, and while they don’t quite devolve into repetitive uselessness, they also don’t generally add much to The Mistress either.

That’s not to say The Mistress has nothing going for her though. As stated earlier, The Mistress is quite strange. While that doesn’t quite help the album as a whole, individual tracks rely heavily on its strangeness, and the result truly is quite interesting. Even though The Mistress sounds quite a bit like Yellow Ostrich’s previous LP, it’s also very much a new development for Schaaf; one that may not quite be up to stuff as of yet, but one that clearly has quite a bit of potential. And of course there are the vocals.

After three excellent albums between The Chairs and Yellow Ostrich, it’s no surprise when Alex Schaaf pulls off the vocal section of every album with a bang. Vocally, The Mistress is no less fantastic than any of Schaaf’s earlier work, and he’s done a great job using every bit of the emotion in his voice to give the music a depth it wouldn’t otherwise have. Between that and Schaaf’s ability to keep his voice fluid through the self-harmonizing of “Hate Me Soon” and “Hahahaohhoho”‘s gleeful melody, The Mistress is blessed with extremely enjoyable vocals.

As usual, Schaaf does an excellent job writing on The Mistress, with lyrics that tell simultaneously entertaining and melodious stories. There aren’t many songwriters who could write a song, let alone a good one, entirely about a whale – but “WHALE” proves that Schaaf is certainly among them. Between tracks like the whale’s story and the slightly melancholy “Slow Paddle,” Schaaf even manages to use “Hahahaohhoho” as a refrain – and on top of that, he makes it work. The lyrics of The Mistress aren’t only well-written, they’re well-written for Schaaf’s voice and for the music, and it certainly shows.

Even with its flaws, The Mistress is a strong album. It’s not the near-perfection of Schaaf’s best album with The Chairs, Nine Ways, but it’s still a decent album. Schaaf handily combines all the elements of The Mistress, quirky instrumentals, excellent voice, and always interesting lyrics, creating a musical whole that comes together quite well, despite any lapse in quality of an individual section – and that, as usual, leaves us excited to see what he’ll come up with next.

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One Response

  1. Eddie says:

    This is a very thoughtful review, but I disagree with your overall assessment. I credit Schaaf for taking chances, and think that The Mistress is nearly as good as Nine Ways. I can’t stop listening to it lately.

    All of that stated, you do an excellent job with your reviews, and I’ll come back again. It’s great to read such well developed and insightful reviews.

    Happy New Year!

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