Top 25 Favorite Albums of 2010 | #24. Yeasayer – Odd Blood

#24. Yeasayer – Odd Blood

Let me start by saying that I did not like Yeasayer’s debut, All Hour Cymbals.  It was too awash in reverb for me to latch onto anything, and it seemed so sprawling, aimless, and schizophrenic that it grated quickly – the fact that moments could be considered “psychedelic” (my least favorite “genre” of music) didn’t help its case.

It’s actually interesting to note that Yeasayer toured with MGMT back in 2008, since the latter’s album from this year seemed to gravitate heavily toward many of the detractions I listed above.  In contrast, Yeasayer employed many of the better characteristics of MGMT’s 2008 offering Oracular Spectacular in this year’sOdd Blood:  classic pop arrangements and structures, crisp, clean production, with lush but still immediate vocals, and synthesized studio effects.  Thing is, they’re still kinda weird.

And hey, I’m not one to hate on someone flying their freak flag, but sometimes you gotta wonder what the motivation is.  First thing’s first:  The unforgivable album artwork.  I don’t know what to say, other than it kind of simultaneously pisses me off and gives me the willies.  And then there’s the opening track, “The Children”.  Why does it sound like a B-side from The Knife (and I mean, I like some of The Knife’s catalog, but really…)?  If I didn’t already know that the thoroughly invigorating “Ambling Alp” awaited me merely a song later, I might have hit the eject button (Who am I kidding? Drag to trash, of course).

Fortunately, all weirdness aside (and really, there are still the periodical bizarre sound effects, a la Tears for Fears “The Big Chair”), tracks two through seven serve as one of the best six-song blocks of the year.  The landscape could best be described as this:  Moments of Naked Eyes’ “Always Something There To Remind Me” and Tears For Fears’ “Head Over Heals” shoved into the Delorean and sent down the rabbit hole;  All of the songs on the Night At The Roxbury soundtrack played at the same time, backwards, and at half speed; and the Cure’s Robert Smith fronting The Rapture as the band in Wim Wender’s film Wings Of Desire (you know, instead of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds).  That all sounds incredibly convoluted, abstract, questionably accurate, and likely horrible, but I promise you it’s way better than I’m making it sound.

The real key here is that most, if not all, of these songs could be stripped down to the most basic and standard of instrumentation, and still resonate just as effectively.  Imagine, if you will, “Madder Red” played by Coldplay.  You may shudder at the thought, but you can’t deny that it would have been a huge hit.  It is simply a great song.  If the Talking Heads had written “Love Me Girl” or “Rome” instead, it easily could have been a highlight of their catalog.  The bottom line is, as scattershot and manic as many of the arrangements on Odd Blood are, they manage to further (and perhaps more accurately) cultivate the identity of Yeasayer, while preserving the integrity of the pop songs underneath.  They wouldn’t be the first band in the world to smear musical oddities and deliberate abstruseness all over strikingly good pop music (see: Xiu Xiu), but if they keep writing songs of this caliber, they will find it increasingly hard to keep their music from being wholly approachable, and heaven forbid, accessible.

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