Album: Fragrant World
Label: Secretly Canadian
Just for a second, picture the modern indie scene as a middle school with each band representing a different stereotype of student. Animal Collective, the younger brother of Flaming Lips, would of course represent the weird kid who was often caught eating glue in the back of the classroom. Sitting next to them would be Bon Iver and Dan Deacon, the fashionably insensitive art kids. Across the room you’d find the literature nerds Sufjan Stevens and Andrew Bird, who spend a majority of their day reading instead of socializing. Sleeping on those vandalized back seats you’d find the angst crowd of Modest Mouse, Brand New and Thrice. Way in front you’ll find the rich kids like The Strokes and Rufus Wainwright. However of all the kids in the room, Yeasayer, the A.D.D kid, seems to be the most noticed.
It isn’t exactly that Yeasayer is the attention-whore type. Actually, instead of being the kid standing in the middle of the room waving his arms for a math sheet, they tend to lean towards being the overactive child who rushes into the room and plays with all of the educational tools at once. Tweaking every sound and turning every possible nob, Yeasayer manages to fidget their way into a completely new region of audio. With a career that has managed to swerve all over the industry during the course of their catalog, the band could manage to be called everything except grounded in their sound. For example Fragrant World, their latest album, has a familiar and comfortable feel to it regardless of the unique and nontraditional approach to noise usage. In fact, their dance friendly, strip-club-for-robots sound is so comforting that it sweeps the backwards-masking and ipod-indie-hipster sounds right under the carpet. In the end the ride is nothing but smooth. In this aspect, Fragrant World becomes a much better listen than their 2010 release Odd Blood, but comparing those albums is like comparing vinyl to a mp3.
Of course in the industry of cool, being approachable can only hurt you. Phrases like “mainstream” and “sell-out” get tossed like rocks in riots, while entire generations claw at the eyes of bands they loved before anyone knew they existed. It is important to remember however, that all of that is total bullshit. Ideas like that are industry smoke-and-mirrors blown to create the illusion of knowledge and supremacy. The music scene as a whole is more about brushing your shoulders off than promoting quality riffs. Yeah Pitchfork, we’re looking right at you.
However, when broken down fundamentally, it is nearly impossible to question what Yeasayer is doing. They’ve successfully managed to gather the greatest aspects of noise pop, experimental sound, bearded fan boys and whatever Justin Timberlake is to make an album that shines. With the 80’s meets 90’s patterns of “Fingers Never Bleed,” and the slow grind perfection of “Longevity,” Fragrant World holds up. Picked apart fans of modern music can come away stoked by the bands’ need to satellite within the gravitational pull of the Brooklyn music scene, while venturing outside just enough to sneak in sound resemblance of bands like Gang Gang Dance, Duran Duran and Talking Heads. Chances are good that if you can turn your back on an album that sounds like the listings above you’re simply hating for the sake of hating, which is fine. Just don’t make your personal bias Yeasayer’s fault. With this album, they’ve earned their five minutes of fame.