Release Date: Aug 21, 12
What is there to be said about Yeasayer’s new album, Fragrant World, that wasn’t already said about their previous album Odd Blood. It’s a very well-produced, well-performed psychedelic-tinged synth pop record. But wait a second, did they forget something this time around that made people love them in the first place (in particular, their terrific debut album, the ultimate genre-changer, 2007’s All Hour Cymbal)? Yes, they absolutely did. With Odd Blood, the album itself wasn’t amazing, but it had hits, it had catchiness, and was just the band trying something different. Not to mention, it was an album that garnered Yeasayer a lot of popularity thanks to the success of singles “Ambling Amp,” and “O.N.E.” But Fragrant World sounds like the rejected tracks from Odd Blood, and is about as boring and repetitive as a New Jersey-centric reality show on TLC or Bravo.
There is one really solid track on Fragrant World, and it’s the debut single, and fourth track “Henrietta.” The song is built around an interesting loop, natural bass, an awesome melody, and overall an alleyway atmosphere that’s an absolute headphone-focused track. “Henrietta” could soundtrack a crime drama and seem really bad ass over a car-chase scene. Halfway through the song, it changes into this futuristic ballad about a girl named Henrietta, and it’s seriously an amazing song. The rest of the album, sadly is nowhere near as good.
There’s a lot of grower-potential in the long, robotic and atmospheric nocturnal-closer, “Glass of the Microscope.” Towards the end of the song it has this very Onra-like style to it, and it’s funky yet still keeps that dark electro vibe, and it works very well. But then we have songs like the cool-sounding, but fairly dull opener “Fingers Never Bleed.” And it seems on this album, the band has become more comfortable with sounding like a weird hybrid between Justin Timberlake, Everything But The Girl, and late-career George Michael. I mean, hey, like what you like, but for an indie pop group, they have the strangest influential approach I have ever heard.
The “JT” comes out heavy in “Longevity” and “Blue Paper,” but at the same time, they’re not Justin Timberlake. Nor Timbaland and Pharrell. It’s well-produced, but it’s not pop music, it’s not indie rock, it’s not interesting either. It’s falsetto over circa-2009 electro-pop. The Everything But The Girl-style is in every song, and it works once on the aforementioned “Henrietta,” but the rest is very unsettling. Lastly, George Michael comes out big time in the song “Folk Hero Schtick.” I can’t tell if they’re critiquing a specific folk-hero or not, but if they are, they don’t have much room to talk. Who are they to critique someone that goes for the “sound of 2005,” when they’re going for the more irrelevant “sound of 2009?” Even worse, is that the song becomes ultra-George Michael-y towards, and sort of sounds like Madonna a la Ray of Light; which would work if it weren’t for the singer’s Lambchop “baa.”
Fragrant World is full of failed attempts at interesting electronic/synth pop music. It’s funny how synth pop revived, crashed the party, and left so much more quickly than in comparison to the 1980s. I mean, Depeche Mode’s most critically lauded albums were in the late-80s/early-90s, yet Yeasayer and many other acts of today keep spitting up these prototypical albums that are just a few years too late. There are many factors to blame, but I suppose I’ll save those for an op-ed later on this week as to why synth pop needs to “chill out” for a bit. All Hour Cymbals-era Yeasayer: I miss you…like the deserts miss the rain.