Yeasayer: Odd Blood

Photo: Guy Aroch

On their debut, this band made waves on the strength of a quietly revelatory single about the year 2080. Now the group seems determined as all hell to imagine 2080, the year, in sound.


Odd Blood

Label: Secretly Canadian
US Release Date: 2010-02-09
UK Release Date: 2010-02-08

For all the critical buzzwords ascribed to 2007’s All Hour Cymbals -- psychedelic, ethereal, sonically adventurous; Pitchfork’s Eric Harvey described a “pan-ethnic spiritualism” derived in the Byrne/Eno tradition -- there was always something intangibly organic about the album; earthy, even. It was the sort of cavernous, lightly doctored indie-pop you could throw on a mix with Fleet Foxes or Yellow House-era Grizzly Bear without getting odd looks. Just witness the airy layers of acoustic ambience that surround “Wait for the Summer”, or the unabashedly rootsy harmonies that make “No Need to Worry” a thing to behold.

Then witness how completely that all unravels in the queasy, synthetic opening moments of “The Children”.

This -- a menacing headfuck of industrial beats and almost comically incomprehensible vocal perversion -- is your invitation to Odd Blood. Spoiler: it’s not inviting. Nor is it even vaguely reminiscent of the band once upon a time responsible for Cymbals’ pastoral leanings. But once the shock wears off -- once the chorus arrives -- the track’s claustrophobic, hard-hitting trip-hop is rendered not only palatable, but oddly triumphant. No, it is not inviting. But like Odd Blood itself, it can be a hell of a trip.

If Yeasayer has some explaining to do, consider the following: in 2007, MGMT was still opening for Of Montreal. Passion Pit wasn’t a blip on the radar. Hercules & Love Affair was months from fruition. The point? Indie’s seemingly spontaneous and surprisingly successful love affair with flamboyant disco revivalism had yet to take hold. Now, suddenly, it has; and Odd Blood, laced with jungle-dense beats and rainbow synths, dipped in an overwhelmingly psychedelic veneer, plays like Yeasayer’s fearlessly decadent response.

Still, the album’s flashy electro-pop production can be shocking, like a jump straight from Sung Tongs into Merriweather Post Pavilion. Surely the latter record’s swirling soundscapes informed the recording of Odd Blood at least a bit. Even more shockingly, though, the group has the pop smarts to make it work, especially on the record’s flawless first half.

“Ambling Alp”, the infectious first single, drops sly references to Max Schmeling (the German boxer later found to have risked his life to save two Jewish children) between a reggae-tinged motivation speech of a chorus (“Stick up for yourself, son / Never mind what anybody else done”). “I Remember” is even better, a soaring, slow-motion ode to sheer love (“I remember making out on the airplane / Still afraid of flying, but with you I'd die today”) and majestic falsetto. So is “O.N.E.”, with its compulsively danceable backbeat and masterfully layered synths. One after the other, these are wildly inventive pop creations, comparable to “Kids”, “Electric Feel”, “Sleepyhead” -- choose your favorite -- in terms of matching flawless melodic currency with retro disco influence and densely modern electronic flourishes.

Odd Blood only falters in its tenuous third act, where “Grizelda” and the Eastern-tinged “Strange Reunions” strive clumsily to tack gimmicky electro-effects onto slower, directionless material. "Mondegreen" thankfully intervenes with one of the record’s most frenzied moments, a wild and disorienting jumble of ’80s Casio, TV on the Radio-style horns, and hyperspeed boom-clap rhythm. This is pop music at its most imaginative, bewildering, and unrestrained. It’s not what Yeasayer once was, and who cares? They have avoided the sophomore slump the only way they know how: by fearlessly dismantling everything that made their debut a safe bet.







A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.


Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.


Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.


HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.


Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.


Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.


'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.


'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.


Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.


DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.


JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.


​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.


Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times


Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.


How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.


Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.


Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.