Apparently, the sophomore slump does not affect all young upstart bands in today’s evolving music industry. Yeasayer, the talented trio from Brooklyn, has crafted a follow-up to its successful 2007 debut — All Hour Cymbals — that is impossibly fun and brilliantly executed. The band exudes all the irresistible charms that indie groups offer but without the pretentious “hipper-than-thou” attitude that has plagued the egos of the majority of its contemporaries.
The dance-floor-loving offspring of Passion Pit and Animal Collective has enjoyed rising popularity because of its ability to stand out from the competition with distinct African and Middle Eastern influences sprinkled throughout its music. In Odd Blood — Yeasayer’s newest album — lead singer Chris Keating’s atmospheric vocals bounce effortlessly off of the group’s psychedelic polyrhythmic pop beats and directly into the hearts of new fans.
For such a strong album however, it starts with little promise for the listener. The opening track, “The Children,” is eerie and unsettling. Cacophonous poundings of what could be imagined as the twisted machinery of a nightmare factory mix with indecipherable, warbling lyrics. The song is a musical mess of epic proportions, and Yeasayer’s botched attempt to create an entrancing experimental opener will unfortunately drive away the casual listener before the first song even comes to a close.
All is forgiven though by the second track, “Ambling Alp.” The lack of confidence displayed in the album’s shaky opener is completely forgotten as the record’s first single quickly establishes Odd Blood’s playful tone and alien soundscape. The song is the type of snappy and lively piece of original music that deserves its place in every music lover’s library. In the chorus, Keating reminds his listeners, You must stick up for yourself, son / Never mind what anybody else done.
Yeasayer’s main struggle throughout the album lies in the band’s inability to produce smooth transitions from its pop-infused songs to its more experimental efforts. Though “Rome” continues the trend of catchy beats that are present in the album’s earlier tracks, Keating’s songwriting weaknesses become distractingly obvious. He seems much more at ease working in the pop genre than trying to imitate the indecipherable phrasings that groups like Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors have perfected. Lyrics such as, Up in a basement / but I’m wearin’ bubble / I’m glad it high heel don’t give fuel to the bubble, come off as cryptic and absurdly ambiguous in their execution.
It is when the band concentrates solely on crafting infectious beats that Odd Blood truly shines. “O.N.E.,” the album’s highlight, is a brilliant tribute to 80s pop with a pulsating polyrhythmic beat that is sure to be fodder for innumerable future D.J. remixes. Yeasayer keeps the energy alive with the following track, “Love Me Girl,” which layers a funky beat with strange animal calls and other pleasantly bizarre noises as background to Keating’s smooth vocals.
Equally worthy of a foot-stomping good time is the confusingly titled “Mondegreen.” A mondegreen is a misinterpretation of words that creates a new meaning in the words’ phrasing. Unfortunately, Keating does not attempt what would have been the interesting task of forming a string of words that would initiate the occurrence of a mondegreen. Instead, the listener is rewarded with the sounds of honky tonk trumpets and handclaps supporting the singer as he belts, Everyone’s talking ‘bout me and my baby making love to the morning light.
Odd Blood’s brisk 40-minute running time is a genius move by Yeasayer. The length is perfect for repeated listens but it will also spark heated demand for the production of another album. Along with the critical and commercial success of Vampire Weekend’s Contra, Yeasayer’s Odd Blood signals a promising new trend in the music industry — namely, the disappearance of the “sophomore slump.” Here’s to hoping that fellow buzz band MGMT will follow in Yeasayer’s triumphant footsteps with its upcoming sophmore album.