Yeasayer Odd Blood Album Review

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LP Giveaway details at the end of the review.
Yeasayer
Odd Blood
Secretly Canadian
out February 9th

89/100
[Rating Scale]

404

Yeasayer’s sophomore release, Odd Blood, kicks off with an awful track. Let’s just put it out there. “The Children” is the weakest song on the album - a plodding, strange, positively uninteresting tune with only slightly better lyrics. You may hear people try to tell you that it’s actually a good song. Or that you don’t “get it.” Those people are ridiculous. It’s a bad song. It ignores everything Yeasayer does well, and consequently pays the price. It sounds like a something made on GarageBand in about half an hour.

It is followed, however, by nine tracks of near perfection.

“Ambling Alp,” the album’s second cut, is on the fast track to being one of the top songs of the year. It builds on the groundwork constructed on debut All Hour Cymbals, expanding the band’s sound and taking it to levels of clarity that album never reached. “O.N.E.,” the album’s second single, is an upbeat showcase of Chris Keating’s vocals and the band’s remarkably diverse backing instrumentation. “I Remember” is a slower song, wistful and beautiful, that will be tugging heartstrings on its fair share of mixtapes in the years to come. There’s something for everyone here, but more importantly, there’s everything for someone. Like Bitte Orca and Merriweather Post Pavilion did last year, Odd Blood will introduce Yeasayer to the masses without alienating existing fans.

There is an air of inevitability surrounding the release of Odd Blood, as if it were a logical step in the development of Yeasayer as a band, or their fanbase, or their commercial success. I would argue that this confidence is unfounded – at least in a vacuum. There are countless impressive young bands that fail to deliver on the promise of a strong debut, countless buzzable albums that fall flat when they reach real ears. The fact that Yeasayer has managed to create an album this strong is a testament to their ability to grow as artists, to take risks that won’t always be met with praise. The mixing on this album is noticeably different from their debut, providing more space while simultaneously dropping some of the reverb from Keating’s voice. The tracks are peppered with odd textures - a splash here, a loon cry there – and Yeasayer isn’t afraid to anchor a tune with handclaps or puncture it with falsettos. But they have managed to sonically expand without changing the heart of their music, with popping off-rhythms and worldly melodies still making the backbone of nearly every song.

Maybe the decision to start the album with the weakest track Yeasayer has ever recorded is a calculated one. Starting with a whimper, rather than a bang, essentially wipes the slate clean – it immediately removes all expectations for greatness, replaced for a sudden and desperate desire for the album not to suck. If this is the first impression that the band wanted to have, we think to ourselves, how terrible must the rest of the album be? The boiling hype that has been swirling since All Hour Cymbals turned heads in 2007 is immediately reduced to a simmer, with the hopes that we haven’t messed something up and burned it already.

If that’s the case, it’s a brilliant switcheroo. Post-“Children” there’s not a song that falls flat. Some set themselves apart, sure, but there isn’t a single dud track in the back nine, none that beg for the skip button. It’s an album that sparkles, that changes the more you listen to it. The band tries on lots of different outfits – fast and urgent, slow and ethereal – unpredictable around every turn. Where tracks on All Hour Cymbals often bled together, eschewing individual song personalities in favor of a singular album identity, Odd Blood manages that balancing act perfectly. You can understand the forest, but the trees are pretty damn fun on their own.

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