Thursday, October 22, 2009

#73.Yeasayer - All Hour Cymbals (We Are Free, 2007)

It was a bit tempting to combine this with yesterday's album entry. Sure, the two albums really sound nothing alike, but there's plenty of incidental similarities: both are products of Brooklyn's nascent indie scene, both make excellent use of interesting production and multi-tracked vocals, both of these reviews are hamstrung by my having to save my thoughts about their obvious standouts for the other side of this project...not the strongest base to justify the pairing but sometimes it seemed like enough. Of course it's impossible to ignore the fundamental divide between TV on the Radio and Yeasayer, namely that the former are hipsters and the latter are hippies. I'm not being derogatory in either case, but if you want to boil down the personae of both bands to poorly-defined archetypes that's the best you're gonna do.

The reason I label Yeasayer as hippies is that there's a distinct communal vibe to their music. It's not a power struggle between competing voices within their ranks, but four people in perfect sync with each other producing some extraordinarily beautiful moments. The sound is close to Animal Collective's post-Feels freak-pop, but with heavy doses of psychedelia and non-western instruments and absolutely gorgeous layers of vocals that overwhelm the proceedings. It's an album where my enjoyment is more based around feel than any sort of tangible element, which makes it hard to put into words, but something about the combination of influences I just listed makes for a genuinely uplifting sound. All told All Hour Cymbals might be the most unrelentingly positive album of this whole list; the lyrics are mostly upbeat, the harmonies are as major-key as they come, the soup of instruments all combine to make some genuinely sprightly accompaniments and the whole package radiates good vibes in an undeniable way.

It's an odd choice given its surroundings on this list, but Yeasayer pull it off with remarkable skill. The individual songs on All Hour Cymbals are all winners, most notably the late-album stretch of "No Need to Worry," "Forgiveness" and "Wintertime" where the band almost sounds like they've plotted a straight course from Cerberus Shoal's tarpigh era to the last 3 Animal Collective albums without the former's moodiness or the latter's vocal madness. The biggest thing it has in its corner though is that it has its own identity. You can trace the sound back to any number of obvious influences, but more than any band in the recent indie rock boom Yeasayer have a sound that is indelibly tied to them and only them. Between the hazy production, strong hooks - both vocal and instrumental - and stunningly pure vocals it manages to find a sound that no other band can lay claim to, at least not yet.

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