Monday, June 14, 2010

Yeasayer - Odd Blood

Yeasayer - Odd Blood

Märt Niidassoo

Usually when I start to listen to a band, which I have never heard, I try to gather a little bit of information about it, in order to better understand the music. The few things I get from Wikipedia are - Brooklyn, experimental rock, first came to attention in 2007, this is their second album and so on. I’m thinking “Meh”. Nowadays, almost everybody in the “not popular” genre calls themself experimental just to hide their incapability to produce proper music or wanting to seem more interesting. So even before putting the “needle on the record,” I have low hopes. I’m writing it, as I listen, so let’s see what I think in the end.

The first drum sequence in The Children I hear, starts to slowly pull me inside Yeasayer’s music like a pack of trolls mining for sounds from years back and mixing them from stuff that still hasn’t been recorded yet. To give an example, I would say it’s something like Massive Attack doing a remix of Divine Styler’s electro hip-hop song from the year 2000, “Sound Quest” after doing illicit drugs for the past three days. So obviously, I like it. I’m off to a good start.

After listening to the first song for about 15 times, I’m ready to move on. Next is Ambling Alp. It starts with similar glooming ambient samples as the previous song. When the music starts, I detect some synth sounds from 80s pop and the vocal sounds like it’s coming from the same era. Then BOOM! When the tempo rises and the climax of the song arrives, I get a feeling, I have been Rick Rolled but in a good way. I can’t say that this song reminds me of my childhood because I was born in 88 and by then the 80s were over. What I can say is that if I invented a time machine and went back to the 80s, I would definitely suggest my mother to listen to this song instead of drooling over the singers from Modern Talking.

For me the third song Madder Red is a mixture of Gorillaz’ “Demon Days” album and some of The Beatles’ work. It’s a very light song with string guitars and soft vocals sometimes adding a bit rougher electric guitars. This song reminds me of a hangover where you don’t actually feel sick but are a bit tired. You wake up, the sun is out and you know you’re not going to accomplish anything today. You go into the kitchen to make yourself some coffee while experiencing some mild headaches, which the electric guitar riffs represent perfectly. You get your coffee, turn off your phone and watch TV all day long.

I Remember’s beginning reminds me Vaiko Eplik & Eliit’s songs. It’s like a dream from which you wake up and the only thing you know is that in it you saw the love of your life but you can’t remember her face. It gives you the warm feeling you feel when you just finished a four hour long ride in a train on a sunny day watching the forests pass by. Although it’s a great song, it leaves you wanting for something more. It sounds more like an intro or a skit in a record. It’s like a beginning of a song that never starts. The end of the song comes so suddenly that you don’t even notice it.

ONE picks up the tempo. Its drums have some similarities to pop music while still maintaining the 80s feel. This song would suit perfectly on the soundtrack of Lion King. If you close your eyes, you can imagine a scene where Simba is running around in the jungle as a young lion cub. The other thing I notice is how in certain parts it sounds a lot like Martin Solveig. I can imagine dancing to it in a retro party so it serves its pop song role while also giving something to the alternative listener. Baby, where halfway done.

The other half kicks of with the song Love Me Girl. I don’t even know how to describe this song. It starts quietly with a soft synth, a quick piano loop and a kick drum that gives you the feeling like it’s going to be some sort of techno song. Then it starts to tease you with some “breakish” beats, not giving away anything what’s going to come next. It even gives you a nice little surprise with a guitar. The synth samples are quirky throughout the song, so another song to raise your mood.

Rome has many sounds that remind me of Chalice. The 4/4 beat makes you want to jump around and as I can see, Odd Blood is winding up the tempo giving you something to dance to. So if you have chilled listening to the album until this point, the party must start. As the lyrics in Rome say “It’s just a matter of time”. Although still a good song, it’s technically one of the weaker ones up until now. I would suggest to play this song to your mainstream friends - it’s easier to listen.

Strange Reunion has a kind of an Indian feel to it. The claps and clashing drums have been brought to the front and the vocal has been sent to the back. If I didn’t know what I was listening to, wouldn’t have guessed it’s Yeasayer. This song differs from the 80s style and it’s like a breath of fresh air before crossing the finish line. The main plus for me are the UFO like synths in the middle and the sitar like samples. Very Zen.

Mondergreen is a song that incorporates so many different styles into it, you have to listen it again and again just to single them all out. You have claps that sound like funk. You have synths that have been taken straight from Daft Punk’s repertoire. The vocals remind me of Elvis. Suddenly you hear saxophones straight from James Brown’s concert that are playing together with a guitar played by Jimi Hendrix with a crappy amp. Some parts of the song even give you a sample sounding like Prodigy. So this song has it all.

The album ends with Grizelda. This song sounds just like a last song should. It winds you down with its simplicity. A little bit of piano, some quiet futuristic sounds repeating in the background, soft vocals and a falsetto voice screaming “yeah-yeah-yeah” throughout the song. Quietly leading the album to its end and sending the listener home thoroughly relaxed and satisfied.

So let’s sum it all up. Yeasayer has created a very creative album giving something to every type of listener. Having not heard very much music lately, it’s very refreshing to have listened Odd Blood. Still an album can’t be all good. The songs individually are all great but listening to them all in one run with thought might get somewhat dull, because the style starts to repeat. The lyrics also started to get bland in some places. Still, it’s a great album to listen in the background. Yeasayer has picked a very nice decade to draw its inspiration from, as the synth sounds of the 80s are becoming more and more popular among the younger crowd. Maybe that’s why the Odd Blood sounds so fresh, the music on the album hasn’t been done actively for over 20 years. Who said funk, rock, punk and electronic music can’t coexist peacefully on one album.

So for the score on the scale from one to five:

Music: ★★★★★
Complexity: ★★★★
Lyrics: ★★★★
Freshness: ★★★★★

Final score: ★★★★ with a pinch of ★


bv said...

"Nowadays, almost everybody in the “not popular” genre calls themself experimental just to hide their incapability to produce proper music or wanting to seem more interesting." - what's "proper music" 8) and can one be generically "not popular" or is the genre applied from outside (in which case it's bound to cover an awful lot of wannabe-mainstream-nogoodniks?)

Other than that, the musical comparisons intertwine enjoyably with distinctly situational or imaginary comparisons (as in the entry on "I remember"); but if the album itself starts to sound a bit samey in style, then the review manages to convey it as you devote an almost equal portion of words on each song whereas your response to tunes is not that even. But at the same time it's interesting to follow that tension between the artistic attempt to please equally with all songs (which is behind putting together any album, I guess) and your listenerly courtesy to at least try to respond to them on an equal scale of intensity - well, all that on one side, and on the other side that inevitable rollercoaster of highs and lows, closer attention and drifting away that characterizes every listening experience. Well, got long and confusing but the question is eventually - should we expect the reviews to be concise and bring out the highlights of the album, or are they more authentic if they outline the whole of the listening experience, with dwindlings as well as peaks?

tsiken said...

To my mind, reviews should make a summary of the whole listening experience. Only writing about the highlights, gives the review a promotional taste and the potential reader has the right to know the up and downs of the album. On the other hand one doesn't have to review every song - if one writes about six songs which consist of every type of songs on the album (the good, the bad and the middle ones) it should be enough