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Tag: psych-pop

Listmas 2014: The Top 50 Albums of the Year [#10-1]


This is it! The final post of 2014 also marks the conclusion of Listmas and specifically this Top 50 Albums of 2014 countdown. It’s been a long road with plenty of bumps and delays along the way, but we’ve finally reached the peak of this imaginary mountain. At this point I’d like to give a special thank you to everyone who read something, clicked on something or downloaded something here at Faronheit over 2014. All of the content that’s posted here is for you to discover and enjoy, and I’m grateful for anyone who visits with that intention. It hasn’t been the best year for the site content-wise, but the hope is to generate more and return to form in 2015. Typically I’d tease a bunch of new features and exciting things in development for next year, but honestly most of that stuff either gains no traction or simply falls off never to be heard from again, so let’s just stick to the mantra of more everything and go from there.

So what can I say about these Top 10 Albums of 2014? Well, like the other entries in this list, there’s plenty of variety in terms of genre and style. It goes from weird to fun to noisy to sexy to relaxing to adventurous and back again. If you’ve been following me on Instagram these last few weeks, you’ve been given access to an early preview of the eclectic Top 5, though I can assure you that #6-10 are as equally exciting and wonderful. And hey, while I wasn’t able to write a lot of album and show reviews this year, some of the ones I did write about make an appearance here. Also worth mentioning: a particular pair of artists who are members of my Class of 2014 had an exceptionally great year, helping to continue to support that program. So I’m not going to spend any extra time talking this up. Please join me past the jump for the big reveal of my absolute favorite albums of the year.

Previously: [#50-41] [#40-31] [#30-21] [#20-11]

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Show Review: TOBACCO + The Stargazer Lilies + Oscillator Bug [Lincoln Hall; Chicago; 9/17/14]

There are some things that, no matter how hard you try, you simply can’t un-see. Images are burned into your brain for all of eternity, in many cases haunting you and giving you nightmares. It’s the sort of stuff where you want to look away, but for whatever reason are unable to do so. I had one of these such experiences at Lincoln Hall this past Wednesday night with a triple bill show of Oscillator Bug, The Stargazer Lilies and TOBACCO. Let me tell you the story of how it destroyed me mentally.


Opening the night were Chicago’s own Oscillator Bug, who have been on this tour for a little over a week but are just now getting around to playing a hometown show in celebration of their debut album Bursts of the Million. While they’re technically a quartet when performing live, pretty much all of their fractured songs and compositions are built by frontman Zaid Maxwell, who started the project because he had these sounds and melodies in his head that wouldn’t go away and wouldn’t fit with any other band or project he was working on. The results are something truly unique, though most people describe Oscillator Bug’s sound as synth psych-pop. You’ve got to find some way to sum it up concisely. To my ears though, it’s more like a sonic assault. Songs overflow with more noise than often feels sensible, yet there’s still a clear melody and strong beats propelling everything forward. While there’s a central groove to most of their songs, sound effects and synths buzz around your head at all angles to the point where sometimes it can feel like there’s a little ADHD going on with too much to try and pay attention to. Of course it’s things like that which make the record worth repeat listens, mostly so you can pick up on everything that’s going on. Meanwhile in a live setting the assault extends beyond the mere auditory and into the visual, as lights surround the band on all sides and are consistently changing in time with the music. They’re not tremendously bright though, as ample attention is also given to the projection screen behind them, which shows a variety of psychedelic imagery. The band is a highly functioning machine while performing, and Maxwell plays ringleader throughout. I’d best describe his demeanor on stage as “staccato,” which is really to say he’s moving at a mile a minute, whether that’s in his halting vocal delivery or switching back and forth between a guitars, synths, pedals and other sound manipulators. He’s a one-man wrecking ball, and his three bandmates are right there at the core because there’s so much to do. Overall, Oscillator Bug’s 25 minute set was extremely high energy, fun and just a bit nuts to experience. More than a few people standing near me commented about how impressed they were after the band wrapped up, and in no way do I disagree with that sentiment.

Buy Bursts of the Million from Dymaxion Groove


Things got a little different with The Stargazer Lilies’ performance, but not in a weird or uncomfortable way. It was simply a sonic shift from the technicolor psych of Oscillator Bug into a world shrouded in muted tones and drones. The New York-based trio powered through a 40 minute set that was heavy on ambient and shoegaze melodies. It was glorious and beautiful and loud, which is really just as it should be. One of the main things I came to realize over the course of their set was that they have the word “stargazer” in their name partly because their music intends to be more uplifting than downtrodden (naturally, it’s also a type of flower). You may be inclined to gaze at the ground out of pure genre habit, but pay close enough attention to the way their songs are structured and do what you can to discern some lyrics, and suddenly there’s this positive harmony that shines through the cacophony. That’s a somewhat rare quality for a band like this to have, which is probably why they’ve been steadily on the rise over the course of the last year or so. There are two small areas in which their live show could use some improvement, and those are with the presentation and vocals. I understand that with most ambient drone-style performances the crowd is supposed to let their minds drift and internalize just about everything, but those not fully entranced may find the band’s deep lighting and projected images to be a bit boring. They’re not hyperactive like Oscillator Bug, nor are they danceable and showing crazy videos like TOBACCO (more on that in a minute). Then again, if you’re the filling in that band sandwich, there’s very little you could do that wouldn’t be perceived as boring. Aside from that, Kim Field does great work on the bass, and is equally talented behind the microphone – when you can hear her, of course. Guitars overpower everything in this style of music, but the vocals are there to function as their own gorgeous instrument and if they’re not properly mixed they’ll be completely drowned out. Field’s voice was barely audible during the songs, and the couple of times she attempted to engage in stage banter it was nearly impossible to hear and make out what she was saying. Outside of those couple of things, it was a highly enchanting set.

Buy We Are the Dreamers from Graveface/Bandcamp


The evening’s headliner was TOBACCO, but it might make more sense to call the guy “wacky tobacky” based on how much strange and offbeat humor played into his live set. Thoroughly aware that having a crowd watching a guy behind a table of buttons, knobs and laptops while lights flash can be pretty boring, one of the main elements in TOBACCO’s live show are videos projected on a screen behind him. He started his set by showing a clip of “The Jerry Springer Show,” which included a hilarious story that a guest told about finding his fiancee cheating with his best friend. From there, it was all about the weird, wild, perverse and strange, set to pounding beats and highly manipulated vocals. If you’ve heard of TOBACCO and maybe even heard his music, then that only tells one small part of this guy’s aesthetic. Music videos for songs like “Streaker” and “Super Gum” (both very NSFW) give you a much better idea of the visual and auditory madness that’s rules his set. I mean, that second video features re-edited video from an actual porno from the 80s wherein people have sex with a strange, female version of E.T.! Any newer videos that were shown during the performance, including “Streaker,” may have been shot within the last few years but had just the right tint and grain to make it look like a product of the 70s or 80s to keep with a running aesthetic and motif in the world of TOBACCO. So what you do during the set is watch the (mostly) psychologically damaging videos while dancing your ass off. Part of me wants to detail all of the figurative war crimes that my eyes bore witness to, but it’s probably better if you don’t know, just in case you want to discover and explore this box of horrors yourself. So is the TOBACCO live show worth your while? I’d liken the experience to a car crash – it may look nasty, and there’s certainly the possibility that people were hurt, but through whatever morbid Curiosity you can’t help but want to look. The man reaches into the dark recesses of your human inclination and plays around in the blood and pus. You’ll walk away feeling violated and maybe even a little offended, but some part of you also loved it and craves more. It’s incredible how close our sensations of pain and pleasure are to one another.

Buy Ultima II Massage from the Rad Cult Store

Song of the Week: Real Estate – Crime


One of the best and worst things about Real Estate is that you can turn on any of their songs and instantly know who it is. The benefits are obviously the ease of recognition; that they have such a distinctive sound and style that you can pick them out of a crowd. Where things turn potentially bad is that with their third full length coming out soon, the idea of forward progression and general sonic evolution appears to elude them to a degree. Put this new song “Crime” on a playlist next to “Suburban Beverage” from their first album, and to the untrained ear they could easily have come from the same record, no matter if it was recorded in 2009 or 2014. Yet maybe the reason why Real Estate continues to pull from the same proverbial sun-soaked and lackadaisical mine a few years later is because it has yet to grow tired or stale. In many ways the music they make is born out of time, and with a clear lack of other artists following in their wake to drive the sound into oblivion, there’s no need to move from their current plane of existence. At least not yet. Looking at the guitar tabs for “Crime,” which the band kindly released in lieu of today’s traditional lyric video, it becomes instantly clear that as relaxed and practically minimal as their melodies may sound, there’s a lot more complexity to them than you might think. Maybe they really have been evolving this whole time in the most subtle and interesting ways, and we’re the criminals for not paying close enough attention to truly notice.

Preorder Real Estate’s Atlas [out 3/4/14] from Domino

Song of the Week: Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks – Little Fang


Dave Portner, aka Avey Tare, has made plenty of fascinating music as a member of Animal Collective, not to mention outside of that band as a solo artist. Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks is his third project, but if you’ve heard anything he’s done previously then what he’s bringing to the table here isn’t a whole lot different. The good news though is that it is diverse and different enough to justify creating a whole new band to put it together. At the same time, whitewashed, fun house psychedelia seems to be a specialty of Portner’s, and it’s almost always a great idea to play to your strengths. So with this track “Little Fang,” the first audio we’ve heard from this new band and from the forthcoming record Enter the Slasher House, we get that tricky blend of strange and trippy composition complete with modulated vocals and stray sound effects. Yet unlike anything else, there’s an extreme clarity and straightforward approach to the song that makes it remarkably easy to digest. For my money, it’s one of the most commercially accessible and catchy things that Portner has ever done, and he’s managed to pull it off without diminishing expectations or sacrificing key elements of his work. If you didn’t know any better, it’d be remarkably easy to confuse it with something by Of Montreal or Ariel Pink. There’s no guarantee the entire record will sound this way, but at the very least it’s a strong introduction to this brand new band.

Preorder Enter the Slasher House (out April 7th)

Album Review: Broken Bells – After the Disco [Columbia]



Think for a moment about a disco. Depending on your age, there’s probably a good likelihood that you’ve never actually been inside of one, given most of them have long since died out to be replaced by the common night club atmosphere of today. But thanks to photos and videos, maybe even a little Saturday Night Fever, everybody has at least some idea of what the experience of walking into a disco might have been like. The mirror ball hanging from the ceiling and the multicolored light up checkerboard floor were the two key components to any disco, outside of the music of course. It was a fun place to be, especially if you loved to dance. But disco the music style and disco the club type both died off, and we’re left with the considerably less technicolor post-disco era. While we as a society are arguably better off without it, there’s still a hint of sadness at the loss of some of those elements. Use that as a starting point for Broken Bells’ second full length, After the Disco. The duo’s 2010 self-titled debut album was a multicolored, eclectic and moderately fun affair that allowed James Mercer to play around with some different styles outside of his work under The Shins name. Meanwhile Danger Mouse got to add another dynamic collaboration to a resume already packed with them. That first record and the subsequent Meyrin Fields EP might not have been the best things associated with either one of the principal members, but they were satisfactory given the circumstances through which they were birthed.

Over the last few years, Mercer returned to The Shins reinvigorated and provided a great reminder that bouncy indie pop is what he does best, and Danger Mouse produced a few more records for different artists that all wound up sounding similarly retro to one another as a result. Broken Bells was starting to feel like an afterthought, to the point where the announcement of After the Disco seemed to be met with a collective shrug all across the web. To a degree that same mentality comes across in the music as well. Gone is the melting pot of styles and genres, replaced with a more subdued and unified spacey synth pop sound that only manages to truly work for them on a couple of tracks. Single “Holding on for Life” is one of those particularly strong moments, with an earworm of a chorus that feels inspired by the Bee Gees. The delicately crafted groove of “The Changing Lights” also marks a great showcase for Danger Mouse, and it’s just about the only time he shines on the entire record. If you’re looking for the weak link among the duo, he is clearly and unfortunately it. While Mercer does a fine job singing and certainly knows his way around a lyric, the cold, plain and emotionless compositions distract from a lot of the good that’s being done. It leads to moments like “Medicine” and the title track, which have solid dancefloor tempos to them but fail to connect or stay with you in any meaningful way. At least the first Broken Bells album had some variety and curveballs to keep you interested even as it made some wrong turns. With After the Disco, the neon lit floors have been shut off and the mirror ball has been cut down. Turns out a dance club can be a pretty depressing place once someone turns the house lights on.

Broken Bells – Holding on for Life

Broken Bells – Leave It Alone

Buy After the Disco from Amazon

Album Review: Tame Impala – Lonerism [Modular]



There’s something incomprehensively magnetic about Tame Impala. Identifying exactly what makes the Australian band’s music so compelling is a challenge in itself, primarily because common sense says that psych-pop songs without much in the way of song structure and choruses shouldn’t go down so easily and smoothly. We’ve been trained on verse-chorus-verse, and anything else almost always falls into the “experimental” category. Then again, bands like The Flaming Lips and MGMT have achieved massive popularity while doing things their own way and going completely off the reservation more than a few times. If they can do it, why not Tame Impala too? They’ve even been working with legendary psych-pop producer Dave Fridmann, the man behind The Soft Bulletin and Oracular Spectacular, for their 2010 debut full length Innerspeaker as well as this new one Lonerism. The way in which he shapes Tame Impala’s sound into something more commercially viable can’t be ignored, though his magic is nothing compared to frontman Kevin Parker’s influence, which is so immense you might consider this band a solo project with a bunch of hired hands to recreate the songs in a live setting. Of course some of the other guys in the band might take offense to such a statement, but on any given song Parker is responsible for vocals, guitar, bass, drums and keys, which is essentially everything. He even reduces Fridmann’s normal job of in-studio producing to that of giving him the unmastered studio recordings and asking for judicial editing and a little bit of polish. It becomes an effortless blend of DIY home recorded aesthetic and present day glossy production, which is one of Lonerism‘s biggest charms.

While there is a certain modern aspect to the record, so much of it sounds like vintage ’60s psychedelia that under the right circumstances you might be able to fool a bunch of people into thinking it’s directly from that era. That task becomes even easier because Parker’s voice has enough John Lennon in it to convincingly present songs as some of the former Beatle’s long lost solo recordings. The day-glo vocal harmonies and quirky bounce of “Mind Mischief” for example feels cut from the same hangdog cloth Lennon often adopted, and the swirling shift it takes towards the end is gloriously “A Day in the Life”-like in nature. But Parker’s talents go beyond simple and unavoidable mimicry because he’s able to consistently find ways to challenge our expectations while still hanging onto a very real pop sensibility. Listen to the six minute swirl of “Apocalypse Dreams” to get a real taste of how he’ll change things up just as you’re starting to get comfortable. Instead of being disappointed by his yanking of the rug from underneath our feet, where things head next are almost always equal to or greater than whatever preceeded it. In other words, you’ve got to trust Parker has your best interests at heart and follow him into the darkness. There’s even a song near the end of the record that explains quite perfectly how you should approach these tracks: “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control.” That sentiment makes “Music to Walk Home By” music you can walk home by, and “Why Won’t They Talk to Me?” a self-fulfilling prophesy.

The two songs on the album that really break free from any influences and previous work are the trunk-swinging stomp of “Elephant” and the gloriously strange drift of “Sun’s Coming Up.” Both stand out for completely different reasons as they represent Tame Impala at their most focused and unfocused. The former engineers an energetic, bass-heavy groove that’s jarring compared to everything else on the album, but it hits harder and is more addictive than anything else that comes before and after it. The latter track closes the record and might as well be two songs in one – a waltzy, dramatic piano ballad at the start and a shimmering, psychedelic guitar instrumental at the end. That imbalance doesn’t really do it any favors, but it does make for an excellent way to close out the record. All the other songs fly by on a breeze, so this gentle application of the brakes prepares us for the end. We’ve had all night to play, and now it’s a race against the impending day. “Sun’s coming up now / I guess it’s over,” Parker sings wistfully as the last lines of the album. For all the disappointment and heartbreak that’s chronicled throughout Lonerism, somehow this one cuts the deepest. Perhaps that’s because we too don’t want it to be over. Buried beneath the sadness is also triumph – the realization that the record you just heard was a masterful display of what modern psych-pop can and should be. Tame Impala have expanded and refined the core sound of their debut into a confident work of art worthy of being named one of 2012’s finest.

Tame Impala – Elephant (Canyons Wooly Mammoth Remix)

Buy Lonerism from Amazon

Album Review: Animal Collective – Centipede Hz [Domino]



Animal Collective have put themselves in an extremely tough spot. They dared to make a great album, and vastly succeeded in doing so. 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavilion became the poster child for psychedelic pop music, and it was at or near the top of virtually every year-end “best of” list. As recently as last month, the album claimed the #8 spot on Pitchfork’s People’s List, a poll voted on by close to 28,000 readers. It took the band nine albums and nine years to finally find that sweet spot in their music. Great as success might be, the expectations that bloom from it are anything but easy to handle. Do you try and build upon the things you’ve done before, stay in a holding pattern by trying something similar, or go off the grid altogether and hope for the best? Anyone that’s listened to enough Animal Collective over the years knows they don’t pander to an audience and they don’t sit still. They don’t even know what or where the “grid” is.

In many ways, their courage to always try new and different things is admirable. There’s brilliance in the unknown, and somebody’s got to go looking for it. The problem is you can take a lot of wrong turns along the way. Animal Collective have fared better than most, because even when their songs sound positively nuts, there’s still that slight pop sensibility that keeps them grounded. Jumping through their catalogue, it’s a little tough to find a lot of similarities between Here Comes the Indian (2003), Feels (2005) and Strawberry Jam (2007).Where they are similar is that all of them are very good albums, and all are challenging to a multitude of unique degrees. It’s not hard to understand why the band failed to gain a large audience in the pre-MPP years, even as they jumped record labels from the smaller Fat Cat to the larger Domino in 2007. Taking three years and keeping many music obsessives waiting patiently for a follow-up, Centipede Hz is what they’ve finally handed over. Whatever your expectations are, don’t think for a second that they’ll be met.

One of the main things worth noting about Centipede Hz is that multi-instrumentalist Deakin has rejoined Animal collective after taking an extended break back in 2007. It’s difficult to quantify exactly how much or how little of an impact he’s had on the band over the years, but his absence from the last album may have played some part in its success. That’s not meaning to suggest Deakin is a harmful presence, but rather a catalyst that caused Avey Tare, Panda Bear and Geologist to rethink their approach to songwriting and composition at least a little bit. Sometimes less is more. In the case of the new album, the sentiment turns out to be the exact opposite. Virtually every song is jam-packed with sonic dissonance, and with so much going on it’s tough to know what to focus on at any given time. Some would call it layered and practical, rewarding multiple listens by giving you new elements to explore each run through. While it does become easier to penetrate the more you listen to it, this album forgets the one key that has made Animal Collective such a compelling band over the years – patience. They used to grow their songs slowly, adding more parts and elements until you’re left wondering how you wound up so buried in sound. The cacophony of opening tracks “Moonjock” and “Today’s Supernatural” don’t build to anything. They start with the dam already broken and millions of gallons of water bearing down on you. It’s overwhelming if you haven’t battened down the hatches in anticipation.

Animal Collective also used to have the “freak folk” descriptor attached to their name, a label that was justified for their emphasis on acoustic guitars with a splattering of odd time signatures and polyrhythms. Listen to an old song like “Leaf House” off of Sung Tongs to get a fair grasp of what that sounded like. Their movement away from guitars and towards synths and electronic textures changed things a bit, but it also gave the band a better lower end with some severely heavy bass that cranked up the danceability factor of their music. Take “Peacebone” from Strawberry Jam as an example. By contrast, virtually all of Centipede Hz sounds thin because it ignores that heft and replaces some of the bass and rhythm parts with bells and whistles and other random sounds that all stay in the shallow end. “New Town Burnout” and “Rosie Oh” both skitter by without ever bringing the sort of boom they might otherwise deserve. Even tracks like “Mercury Man” and “Amanita” where you can hear things that are almost definitively bass drums and guitars don’t impact and rattle speakers the way they should. The effect may be intentional though, designed to mimic the effect of listening to the radio on tinny speakers. The mixture of varying radio broadcasts which serve as interstitial moments between tracks and give fluidity to the record seem to support this theory. Is that sort of a move necessary on an album like this? Not really, but who knows what goes through these guys’ heads as they piece together songs.

Maybe one of the main points of Centipede Hz is to push you into liking it, because at their heart these are really simple psych-pop songs dirtied up by a lot of challenging excess. The more you listen to it, the better you can process all of it. That doesn’t make the songs good though. Some of them just sort of wander without much purpose or direction, or take detours down paths that otherwise betray strong melodies. “Wide Eyed” and “Father Time” are both guilty of this, and they sit right at the center of the record. The former is surprisingly straightforward and bouncy, but overstays its welcome and has some so-so vocal work from Deakin. The latter is just utterly forgettable. On an album with so many distinguishing moments for better or worse, it stands as a shrug-worthy effort that even the rather slow and boring “New Town Burnout” doesn’t stoop to minutes later. After pointing out so many apparent flaws, it’s important to note that there are a bunch of very good to great moments on Centipede Hz too. Besides the opening two tracks that have their charms, “Applesauce” has some weirdly great energy going for it, as does the closer “Amanita.” The powerhouse cut of this album though is “Monkey Riches,” a nearly seven minute freak out that comes across like a breath of fresh air. If Animal Collective had done the entire record using that song as an inspirational point, we would have another Merriweather Post Pavilion on our hands, but in a different sort of way that likely would have stood up well amidst their varied catalogue.

You can’t really say that Centipede Hz is a bad record. It’s bad by Animal Collective standards, which are heights that are tough for almost every other artist to reach. If you’re in search of an entry point and a way to ease into the band’s world, this isn’t it by a long shot. But that also raises a great point about these guys: no matter which of their albums you listen to, you’ll never think it’s another band. They may have jumped from acoustic guitars to thumping beats to sound effects and radio snippets in the last dozen years, but they’ve always retained a challenging conceptual sonic structure uniquely their own. There’s comfort in that, even when they release something that might be considered subpar. So they’ve finally hit a creative speedbump, which more than anything else has been a long time coming. Consider this also a way to temper excitement for whatever they’re going to do next. Not that they ever felt any pressure before. At least fans won’t be expecting another miracle. The greatest and best hope you can have is that Animal Collective remain Animal Collective. Everything else is a proverbial roll of the dice.

Watch/Listen to “Today’s Supernatural” at YouTube

Buy Centipede Hz from Amazon

Snapshot Review: Yeasayer – Fragrant World [Secretly Canadian]



As a general rule, you could well say that whenever the lead singer of a band starts picking fights with random people and things in interviews, it’s a sign of trouble. That doesn’t always mean an epic war of words between two or more parties. More often than not it’s a cry for attention, the idea of saying something inflammatory to get your name in the press because it might not be there otherwise. Billy Corgan has been pulling this trick for decades, and it’s kept the Smashing Pumpkins on people’s minds even during the last decade when they were churning out loads of crap. Which brings us to Yeasayer’s Chris Keating. Chatting with Rolling Stone about the band’s new album Fragrant World, he openly insulted R. Kelly and the current state of EDM (electronic dance music). And while he complimented Frank Ocean’s excellent work in the R&B genre, he capped it off by saying the genre should “gay it up a little,” referencing Ocean’s bisexuality. Of course he’s still better off than Surfer Blood frontman John Paul Pitts, who is dealing with a much more serious situation right now. But Keating’s comments are helpful because they give the band headlines while distracting from reviews of their new record. If your album is good, the attention will find you even if you don’t open your mouth. So yes, pulling a quote stunt like he did feels like an act of pre-release desperation. Hearing the first two Yeasayer albums All Hour Cymbals and Odd Blood, you might imagine that such a talented band with a great ability to avoid being confined to a particular label or genre would continue to flourish. Unfortunately their unique mixture of freak folk and psych-pop has been brushed off in favor of something decidedly more minimalist and dark. Arrangements are no longer packed with an array of colorful instruments, instead synths and electronic beats seem to be the two driving forces on their songs. Sometimes, as in the chorus of “Fingers Never Bleed,” it brings out a very ’80s R&B vibe that wouldn’t sound too out of place on a Janet Jackson record. Other times it can sound like Chromatics filtered through the lens of The xx, as on “Damaged Goods.” That might make it seem like there’s a reasonable amount of variety across the album, as with the previous two Yeasayer long players. Actually, Fragrant World is the most cohesive and sonically solid record the band has ever made.

It’s a shame then that these are also the most uninteresting and unremarkable songs they’ve ever created as well. Even if you have the patience to listen through the whole thing a half dozen times, it’s unlikely you’ll come across many tracks that distinguish themselves from the pack and actually stay with you. The album’s midsection of “Devil and the Deed,” “No Bones” and “Reagan’s Skeleton” do the best jobs of being reasonably catchy and memorable. As much as they do right, they also just sort of drop off without trying anything truly new or different. There aren’t any twists in spots where there should be, and it feels like something’s missing as a result. The shift away from fuller and more complex arrangements also brings the band’s lyrics into a greater spotlight than ever before. Anyone that’s paid close attention to their last two albums knows Yeasayer aren’t the most prolific songwriters. Their skillfully crafted songs have gone a long way towards covering that problem up. Now pushed to the surface, the words are just another way the band stumbles and falls. It might be a little more forgivable if they had kept some of the uplifting and inspiring themes of their last couple records. Unfortunately much of the new album is about death and darkness, so if the bass-heavy melodies don’t bring you down then the lyrics probably will. “My girl says that all the rain promises is to give life to the seeds/Live in the moment/Never count on longevity,” Keating sings on “Longevity.” While it’s probably not intended that way, you could imagine those lines being mirrored back at the band and their career so far. While it’s admirable that they’re not content to sit still and fully commit to a certain style or genre of music for very long, it could also spell trouble for them if they make one too many wrong moves. Fragrant World may be the start of that inevitable downfall, or it could be a small misstep in an otherwise strong career in music. For the sakes of everyone, let’s hope it’s the latter.

Yeasayer – Henrietta

Buy Fragrant World from Amazon

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