20
Aug
2012
Yeasayer: Fragrant World
Fragrant World
Darren
Bottom Line: Not as experimental as All Hour Cymbals nor as pop sounding as Odd Blood, Fragrant World walks the awkward line in between the two.

Fragrant World

I first discovered Yeasayer when their 2010 album Odd Blood seemed to be making many "best of the year" countdowns and was compared to Animal Collective. Like most listeners, I really got into singles "Ambling Alp" and "O.N.E.," which were very catchy for a band described as "experimental." I later got debut album All Hour Cymbals, which sounds remarkably different and was a lot more "out there" - like it comes from a far away land, maybe another planet. Therefore, when I first heard about Fragrant World, I assumed that it would be even poppier; Yeasayer saw that Odd Blood had catchy songs and did well, and would repeat that formula.

Instead, Fragrant World fits between All Hour Cymbals and Odd Blood, being neither too "out there" nor too poppy. Fans that got into Yeasayer knowing only of "Ambling Alp" must have listened to this album thinking "okay, that track was a little odd, but maybe the next one will be easier to get into" and then disappointingly reached the end of the album without hearing the overly-catchy track they sought. Fans of All Hour Cymbals however must have liked this return to a more "experimental" sound, yet might be wishing it had a more "tribal" quality to it instead of a more general electronic sound.

Anticipation aside however, the album isn't that bad, and it is possible to get into a good amount of the tracks if listeners drop what they expect Yeasayer to exactly sound like. Opener "Fingers Never Bleed" has a fairly catchy chorus with a keyboard part that reminds me of techno songs from the '90s I heard growing up. "Blue Paper" is oddly catchy with its fast beat and high-pitched synthesizer melody that pops in. "Henrietta," the album's single that got me pretty pumped for the rest of it, and is quite "groovy" with its strong bass part, all before chilling out for the refrain of "Oh Henrietta, we can live on forever." "Devil & The Deed" has a jarring melody that sounds like a cross between dance and experimental music, and "No Bones" has an interesting Eastern-sounding aspect to it at times. As discovered in Odd Blood, vocalists Chris Keating and Anand Wilder both have pretty strong voices, and a lot of the tracks on this album aren't afraid to show this off.

Other tracks, particularly on the second half of the album (except for second track "Longevity," a bland misfit of the first half), aren't as accessible or memorable. "Demon Road" doesn't stick out at all, and if "Reagan's Skeleton" is trying to make a political statement, it's totally lost on me. "Damaged Goods" doesn't seem to build to anything, and "Folk Hero Shtick" would be better off without the random odd bridge and synthesizer part. The album ends with "Glass of the Microscope," which just kind of drones on and continues a trend of using unnecessary amounts of vocoder later in the album, when as mentioned before, the vocalists are so strong that any distortion really causes songs to lose energy.

I'll admit, I was disappointed that Fragrant World lacked any poppy standout singles, and do hope they'll release something more in the vein of Odd Blood in the future. However, I wouldn't call Fragrant World a wash at all, and the album does grow with repeated listens. It may not be a copy of either of their previous albums, but it shouldn't drive away any devotees that are content with hearing the bridge between the experimental, dance, and electronic sound they're known for.

Grade: B+
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