Album Reviews

Yeasayer – Amen & Goodbye


Judging by their interviews Yeasayer are duly concerned with keeping things fresh. Since they broke onto the scene almost ten years ago they’ve conjured up tracks from pop, rock, dance, folk, psychedelia and most things in between. They’ve been called ‘desert-rock’, ‘art-pop’ and the self- made label ‘Middle Eastern-psych-snap-gospel’. Yet the careful listener will spot sonic threads running from one album to another, connecting even some of the most disparate elements. Whether it’s the iPod-hippie of Odd Blood or the noticeably bare focus of 2013’s Fragrant World Yeasayer have always focused on the more expansive and melodic elements of song writing. Each album so far has been a selection of style with one pervading musical influence dominating the others and this year’s Amen & Goodbye is no different. Just as the awesome Pop art-cum-Bosch album cover crashes two distinct timelines, the bands fourth studio album brings together the psychedelic pop of the sixties and seventies with a distinctively modern flavour. In fact if you look at a track like lead single ‘I Am Chemistry’ it’s not just as indebted to The Beatles as coeval artists like Beck and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. It actually seems to be the legacy of the Fab Four, their numerous pop and rock offspring, that are the influence here.

‘Silly Me’ could have strolled straight off of Odd Blood and may be the most distinctly Yeasayer track on the album with its dance, Passion Pit vibes. But it’s followed up by the blues guitar of ‘Half Asleep’ and while that sound may not be for everyone the Kate Bush style choruses lift it from the mire. Each track is a blend of sounds without ever sounding disjointed. So while there may be elements of the bouncing bass of Metronomy it’s not long before you hear the modest EDM of new Belle & Sebastion. The problem is, with so many elements jostling for control there isn’t always something distinct to bite into.

Luckily there’s tracks like ‘Divine Simulacrum’ which is modern, moody and gritty. It breaks apart the barrage of spritely, almost joyous pop that comes before it. However it also ushers in the weakest passage of the album. ‘Gerson’s Whistle’ is a throwaway Death in Vegas track, ‘Uma’ a superfluous Ocean Colour Scene and although closer ‘Cold Night’ has a tantalising element of new-wave, it’s a lead balloon.

This album is at its best when it’s resplendent, which is in the first half. Tracks like ‘I Am Chemistry’ and ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ show a band intelligently picking from the buffet of past and present. But as the record goes on it gets pulled down by a lacklustre sense of noughties indie style. At its best, the lack of identity can be a bit off putting even as it highlights Yeasayer as the highly capable songwriters they are. Eoghain Meakin