After forming in 2006 and almost instantly becoming branded as a no-nonsense, psychedelic band with a trip-hop beat, Yeasayer have thrown autumn 2012 into a frenzy. Their self-produced third album Fragrant World was released to the public on August 20th after the success of singles such as Henrietta, an ode to the eighties with a wavering sense of melancholy in its lyrics – ‘Oh Henrietta/ We can live on forever’.
Lead singer Chris Keating describes Fragrant World as an album exploring the dimensions of ‘demented R&B music’, and although I appreciate the album as a vivid reflection of the bands enthusiasm when given a harpsichord and an auto-tuner, it seems to fall short in its ability to intrigue the happy-clappy-listeners of the world.
However, sombre lyrics aside, Fragrant World’s sound has clearly developed since the bands second studio album Odd Blood (2010). Not that Odd Blood was bad, I think it was pretty outstanding actually, but Fragrant World seems to use the same electro, funk-tinged rhythm throughout its songs with much more precision. The throb of the synth seems heavier, such as in the opening song Fingers Never Bleed. The beat is solid and seamless against the cascading keyboards floating around in the background like a distorted police car siren.
Longevity, Blue Paper and No Bones are probably the cheeriest songs on the album, with their lyrics becoming almost overshadowed by the mix-match of beats spitting through verse and chorus with the same radiating dance feel as bands such as MGMT and Animal Collective have mastered. The thick, vibrating synth on Reagan’s Skeleton almost instinctively lifts its listener’s feet off the ground, to then bring them back down to earth with a dreamy, pulsating keyboard solo (or what I am guessing is a keyboard, but could easily be a mischievous synth rhythm or thumb piano flutter).
The final three songs, consisting of Damaged Goods, Folk Hero Shtick and Glass of the Microscope, conclude the album with a mix of eclectic, down-beat and hypnotic dance melodies. Smidgens of influence from The Beatles (in Folk Hero Shtick) and Neon Neon are noticeable and strongly encouraged on my part. Although, I do feel the auto-tuner in Glass of the Microscope sounds a bit too much like an ode to George Michael’s attempt to write a dance album – which sadly, I don’t feel gives the song a great vibe.
Overall, Fragrant World is a manic and fascinating piece of work, which is made all the more entrancing while played at highest volume on a drive down a winding, country lane – or so I’ve been told.