Yeasayer - Odd Blood - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Yeasayer - Odd Blood

by Rich Morris Rating:8 Release Date:2010-02-09

Yeasayer's first album, All Hour Cymbals, was heaped with praise upon its release in 2008. Its combination of obtuse experimentalism and African roots music wowed critics for whom Vampire Weekend's ostentatiously African-influenced debut, which came out only weeks earlier, was a little too poppy and crowd-pleasing. The record itself had some excellent moments and an intriguing atmosphere, but wasn't exactly packed with classic tunes, most tracks being content to wander aimlessly up their own backsides. With Odd Blood, the band appear to have renounced the fuzzy meanderings of their debut and dived headlong into melodic, synth-drenched 80s-influenced psych-pop, sounding like a less contrived, more perverse MGMT, and perhaps seeking to follow fellow uber-hip Brooklynites Dirty Projectors and Animal Collective from the fringes of American experimental indie-pop to the mainstream.

If that is the intention, then opener 'The Children' is an inauspicious start. It's the most atypical track here, the shambling tempo, heavily distorted vocals and portentous synths combining to produce a dark, mysterious and unsettling experience. It's followed, though, by single 'Ambling Alp', and the contrast couldn't be starker. Whereas 'The Children' provokes frowns and shivers, 'Ambling Alp' lunges straight for the heart, producing a rush of pleasure and a goofy, satisfied smile. The unashamedly, almost cornily upbeat lyric - "Stick up for yourself son/ Never mind what anybody else done," Chris Stewart wails in the chorus - allied with the bouncy bassline and monstrously catchy melody make the song an instant pop classic.

Following 'Ambling Alp' is difficult, but Yeasayer have a damn good stab nonetheless, and are pleasingly willing to sound earnest and cheesy rather than strike cool poses or frustrate the listener. 'I Remember' is a lovely electro power-ballad with a shimmering synth refrain and Stewart nakedly emoting ("I remember making out on the aeroplane/Still afraid of flying, but with you I'd die today") as he recalls a past affair. 'O.N.E.' is a mighty slice of sun-flecked pop-funk with a downbeat but highly danceable chorus. 'Love Me Girl', after a moody two minute New Order-style intro, sounds like Of Montreal on its jerky, disjointed verse, before unexpectedly morphing into Depeche Mode on the chorus. It's a remarkable track, cramming tons of ideas and influences into its five minutes. And then the next song, 'Rome', starts off like the B-52s (right down to Stewart's "Yeah yeah yeah," uttered in Fred Schneider-esque sprechstimme) before settling into a dark, jittery electro stomp. A lot of bands have ripped off the 80s, but few have done it with such verve, abandon and, refreshingly, such complete lack of irony.

Which is the heart of the reason why the album succeeds - the 80s stylings on Odd Blood have not been served up to attempt to appropriate the fashions and attitudes of the decade, or to make knowing statements on pop history, but to move you and make you dance. This is a warm, generous record, and entertaining and stylish to boot. While it will not change the world - and may not even make Yeasayer the new superstars of the Brooklyn scene, despite them producing the most brilliant pop song of the year so far in 'Ambling Alp' - it contains enough inventiveness and joyous tunes to make you wish that more studiedly leftfield bands would try their hands at pop music for a change.

Pete Sykes

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