YEASAYER – Odd Blood (2010)

It was hard not to think of Yeasayer as an inevitable musical compromise when they first arrived with All Hour Cymbals three years ago. Here was a band that, with one album, managed to reach some sort of previously unattained middle-ground: don’t like Animal Collective because they’re too weird? Step right up. Hate TV on the Radio because they’re too cerebral? Come on in. Avoid Rusted Root out of fear of developing terminal hippie-itis? Well, welcome aboard. It’d be easy to write the band off as a mass appeal conceit, if it weren’t for the fact that All Hour Cymbals was an impossibly addicting amalgam of sunny tribalism and dance-floor ecstasy. So, with their status as indie-peacemakers intact, Odd Blood, the band’s sophomore album, is either a great progression or a regression depending upon how you look at it. Here, the band have moved beyond the relative safety of their precariously balanced sound, bending themselves towards this extreme and that, and the results are just as likely to thrill you as nauseate you.

While the majority of the songs on Odd Blood retain the band’s psychedelic poppiness, they’ve retrofitted them with a lot of electronics and percussion that would be more in place on an album from 1985, not 2010. Still, what the band do with these sounds is unique to them. The driving beat on first single Ambling Alp would be just as at home on All Hour Cymbals. And to listen to Mondegreen is to practically hear the band trying desperately to find 2080’s breaking point into unpleasantness. So yes, Phil Collins drum sounds aside, Yeasayer are still Yeasayer. Well, almost. There are a few songs on here that seem to channeling someone, whether it’s Kevin Barnes’ vocal theatrics on Love Me Girl or Karin Dreijer Andersson’s garbled, manipulated babble on the hyper-disturbing yet fascinating album opener The Children or Matthew Bellamy’s focused paranoia on the verses of Rome. But even here, Yeasayer never opt for point-blank emulation, and that’s partly what makes these songs so rewarding.

Moreso than anything else, Odd Blood makes sense, and that’s about the highest compliment I can pay it. The band weren’t going to be able to maintain their delicately balanced sound forever; eventually, they were going to give in to one aspect of it more than the others, and the fact that they decided to do it now is not only logical, but admirable. There’s nothing greater than to witness a band pushing the very boundaries they’d established ever so recently. And that’s what Odd Blood is the sound of.

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