By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
New iTunes genre tag: "LOL Brooklyn." New entry under said tag: Yeasayer's Odd Blood, wherein the fanciest of boroughs gets its very own Tears for Fears. Geographically sprawling, blithely psychedelic, deadly earnest, unapologetically corny, and occasionally transcendent '80s New Wave frivolity, the album is R&B for people who still refuse to listen to actual R&B. So make like the band's famously NSFW "Ambling Alp" video, take off your clothes, mind that glowing geodesic dome, start sprinting precariously downhill through the desert, and let's do this.
Yeasayer's 2007 debut, All Hour Cymbals, occasioned more instances of the word tribal than any other record. Like an apocalyptic campfire sing-along drenched in reverb and manic percussion, it barely skirted the worldly cheeseball pop of Deep Forest or Enigma, and sometimes didn't skirt it at all. The band played a couple of mildly Zeitgeist-y Bowery Ballroom shows with MGMT, which at first seemed like a doppelgänger but turned out to be way poppier and more nihilistic, not to mention more marketable.
And now, a few years later, despite all the visual and sonic wackiness (concussive drums, squiggly keyboards, some farting horns to offset those karaoke-proof bouts of flamboyant falsetto), Odd Blood's "Ambling Alp" is basically a Jazzercise self-help seminar. Chorus: "Stick up for yourself, son/Never mind what anybody else does." Triumphant conclusion: "Now the world can be an unfair place at times/But your lows will have their complement of highs." The lyrics are daring you to laugh again: "Everybody's talkin' 'bout me and my baby," Keating breathlessly intones on the manic "Mondegreen," amid a stuttering, yeti-handclap beat and more horns, more thunderous keyboards, more everything. "Makin' love to the morning light/Makin' love till the morning, morning light/Makin' love till the morning."
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It's tempting to lump these boys in with Animal Collective and be done with it: lush, drum-circle overproduction in the service of the most twee sentiments imaginable. But succumb to this brazen goofiness (and survive the plodding, android-voiced, deliberately terrible opening track, "The Children") and it can all actually be delightful. When the triumphant oooh-wee-oooh chants burst into view like a twin sunrise on "Madder Red," you can either flee in terror or go prancing toward Narnia with them. "O.N.E.," led by warmer-voiced cofrontman Anand Wilder, ascends to dance-party heaven. And "I Remember" is a monster ballad, with synths and Keating's falsetto even goopier than usual, overwhelming in their kaleidoscopic ardor. Chorus: "You're stuck in my mind/All the time."
Really, there's a lot happening with these guys — a considerable amount of it somewhat ill-advised — but the whole electro-jam-band thing eventually wins you over.