Yeasayer - Fragrant World
Record Label: Secretly Canadian
Release Date: Aug. 20, 2012
At the local record store here in Orlando, the following description defines Yeasayer's new album Fragrant World.
"A hulking beast of a record. Keyboards clank and wheeze, tiny claps stumble against busted drum machines, and there's very little obvious guitar. It's an album that grapples with the schizophrenia of the modern world by gathering piles of electronics and molding them into something huge and often gorgeous."
That's a pretty good jumping off point for describing Fragrant World, but quite a bit is left out. For starters, Fragrant World is crazy melodic. It is also incredibly soothing, undoubtedly tranquil and without a doubt, a surging step forward for a band who does very little wrong. Album opener "Fingers Never Bleed" is smooth and suave and decidedly vernal. There's a honeyed, gauzy quality here that makes the song supple and simple, and Lord, if it ain't something. "Longevity" surges forward cylindrically and is decidedly thick with atmosphere. There's almost a steamy vibe to the song as vocalist Chris Keating swims his way through the ducks and swirls.
"Blue Paper," is dreamy and cottony. There's a doe-eyed sentiment that is woozy, understated and wholly charming. For the first time on the album, Keating's vocals take a backseat on "Henrietta" which is decidedly about tone, atmosphere and attitude. As if cognizant of that, the group ups the ante on "Devil and the Deed" which is the most immediate and upfront of the disc's early half. Fittingly, the first half ends with "No Bones" a thumping, urban cut thick with dance-floor attitude, sex appeal and enough left turns to make one's head spin.
The second half of Fragrant World opens with "Reagan's Skeleton," which is inspired, urgent and the perfect tonic for Indian summer afternoons. "Demon Road," is swirly and cylindrical and features the line "All hell's gonna break loose." "Damaged Goods," begins decidedly more low-key, stripped down and simpler than any of its predecessors and that sense of restraint is what makes the song that much more indelible. Towards the latter half though the song morphs into something puzzling and alienating. Some might get lost on this track, some might find it halcyon and memorable. In the opinion of this writer, it has a weird bipolar sentiment, but then again, maybe that's the point.
The off-kilter "Folk Hero Shtick," is lo-fi, fuzzy and very much left-of-center. Sounds slide in and out as Keating rattles off a yarn about a fair-weather friend. There's almost a sense that "Folk Hero Shtick," feels more like a tacked on bonus track or a b-side, but then again, maybe that's the point? The disc's penultimate artistic statement is "Glass of the Microscope," another restrained effort and arguably one of the disc's strongest efforts. The LP ends with "No Bones (Helado Negro Remix)," another oddity that seems to give the middle finger towards reason and simplicity. But it is there amidst a bevy of machinated noises that the quintet ties together all the previous statements into one last hurrah. That small fact should not be overlooked. Fragrant World is a heavy album with lots going on and lots more being said. Often times tying a ribbon on all the sentiments can be difficult, but Yeasayer, like the seasoned veterans they are, handle it with aplomb.
And it is there in the final seconds of the remix of "No Bones," that Yeasayer prove their worth. The quintet has a real pulse on how to be memorable, melodic and magnificent without sacrificing their defined visions. That in and of itself is proof why Fragrant World is well worth repeated spins. Only three albums into an already illustrious career, the sky appears to be the limit for these Brooklyn upstarts. This album is proof.