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Yeasayer “Fragrant World”—Album Review

Mute (2012)

Renowned for cramming more ideas into one song than many of their hipster-pop contemporaries would manage in an entire career, Brooklyn quintet Yeasayer remain unashamedly restless on their third studio album Fragrant World, due to drop Aug. 21.

Indeed, perhaps even more hyperactive than 2010’s Odd Blood, every single one of these self-produced 12 tracks ends up veering off in a completely different direction from where it started in a manner reminiscent of a particularly dizzying fairground ride.

It’s an approach which can sometimes be thrilling. Inspired by a woman whose cancer cells were used in research after her death, “Henrietta” begins as a funky slice of 80s new wave before venturing into the kind of stadium gothic rock Depeche Mode have built a career on. “Blue Paper” merges Chris Keating’s falsetto pop melodies with the shimmering shoegaze of My Bloody Valentine and the emotive art-rock of Radiohead, while “Devil & The Deed” sounds like the late 00s playful electronica of Hot Chip crossed with the early 00s staccato R&B of Timbaland.

But there are also times when you wish Yeasayer would learn when to calm down, none more so than on the initially haunting dub of “Folk Hero Schtick,” which is needlessly interrupted by a rather jarring blend of Simon & Garfunkel-style harmonies and a discordant brass section.

Elsewhere, the stinging industrial rock verses of “Reagan’s Skeleton” don’t sit too well with its blissful synth-pop chorus, which appears to have been shamelessly lifted from The Beloved’s “Sweet Harmony,” while “Damaged Goods” takes in everything from Middle Eastern-tinged breakbeat to acidic nu-synth pop to twinkling R&B without really convincing on any level.

Fragrant World is the kind of record that requires repeated listens to adjust to the wall of sounds Yeasayer have rather fearlessly created. But while their admirable ambition sometimes reaps its rewards, they could perhaps do with someone to reign in their ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ technique every now and again for album number four.

3 / 5 stars     

About the Author


Jon O'Brien's love of music began as a six-year-old after becoming bizarrely transfixed with the 80s poodle rock of Heart, Europe and Def Leppard. Switching his attention to pop icon Michael Jackson, he then became addicted to the UK Top 40, becoming a rather pointless walking Wikipedia of chart positions in the process. Driving his poor neighbors up the wall while learning to play the drums as a teen, he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but in studying Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, he realized heÕd rather write about music than perform it. Since then, he's written thousands of reviews and biographies on everything from bubblegum pop to death metal, but electronica remains his main passion, with everything from Aphex Twin to Zero 7 in his spare room-consuming record collection. Jon resides in northwest England near Liverpool.

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