Yeasayer, "Odd Blood

February 10, 2010


One of the slipperiest things about great psychedelic rock bands is that they're working in a genre that rejects being pigeonholed by any label. "'Psychedelia' is such a broad term," Yeasayer keyboardist and vocalist Chris Keating told me when I profiled the band in the wake of its much-buzzed debut "All Hour Cymbals" (2007). "I hate the notion that the music gets labeled and then all of the sudden it's 1967 and Haight-Ashbury, headbands and tie-dye. I look at Public Enemy as a pretty psychedelic band--just the ideas behind where they're coming from, and sonically, the way they were mixing their records and piecing things together."

This is to say that the only thing fans who really understood the expansive sounds of these Baltimore-to-Brooklyn transplants could reasonably expect from their eagerly anticipated second album was the unexpected, and the quartet has delivered with considerable success.

Where the mixture of rock, electronic and worldbeat rhythms was the most obvious sonic signature on the band's debut, and those percolating undercurrents still power much of "Odd Blood," the vocals and a new focus on pop songcraft are what distinguish this disc, from the rousing sing-along hook of "Madder Red" (a standout in concert when the band played last year's Pitchfork Music Festival) to the intimate vocal delivery of the'80s-falvored electronic ballad "I Remember."

Like many psychedelic rockers, the members of Yeasayer are optimistics, if not utopians. "The world can be an unfair place at times/But your lows will have their compliment of highs," they sing on "Ambling Alp." The 10 tracks on "Odd Blood" pack enough sugary hooks to keep you high for a month, while the sophisticated arrangements and more mind-boggling than ever polyrhythms firmly mark the band as an equal to its neighbors and fellow travelers TV on the Radio and Animal Collective.