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Album Pick of the Month: Yeasayer’s ‘Fragrant World’

 Photo credit: Anna Palma

Album Pick of the Month: Yeasayer’s ‘Fragrant World’

By Mike Duffy

In advance of the August 21 release of their third full-length album, Fragrant World, Yeasayer sent fans on a scavenger hunt across the Internet to seek out videos for each of the record’s 11 songs.

It was a way for the Brooklyn-based band to combat the inevitable leak, which happened with 2010’s Odd Blood.  Following random clues opened access to the colorful, fractal-esque clips created by director Yoshi Sodeoka, continuing Yeasayer’s reputation for using avant-garde visual experiences.  The trippy, hall-of-mirrors images work perfectly with the spacey, almost drugged-out music off Fragrant World, too. 

To pre-order Fragrant World, visit Yeasayer’s official website.

From the opening beats of “Fingers Never Bleed,” with blips and bleeps of a synthesizer accented by ominous piano notes, Fragrant World takes the listener on quite a journey. Chris Keating, Ira Wolf-Tuton and Anand Wilder touch on life, love, stardom and even politics, all while mashing genres like head-nodding funk, wistful pop and world music.

Needless to say, Yeasayer has put out yet another truly unique album.  The band mixed the self-produced Fragrant World at Gary’s Electric Studios in Greenpoint, Brooklyn before turning things over to Dan Carey (Bat for Lashes, Chairlift) for touch ups.

While Odd Blood wqs more radio-ready – with the inherently catchy “Ambling Alp,” “O.N.E.” and “Madder Red” – it takes a few listens to get through to the hooks of Fragrant World.

Tuton, however, insists that they exist.

“I think there is actually a lot more hooks, but they just might be a little more subverted, as opposed to it being the singular hook of the song,” he told The Village Voice.  “I think there’s a lot more parts that transition into focal points of different sections. That’s just the way I hear it.”

With the amount of layers Yeasayer constructs, that is understandable.  For example, “Longevity,” features a plinking intro and lush strings to add depth, but the dirging beat suggests that some (several?) house DJs could make a spot-on dance remix out of it.

“Reagan’s Skeleton,” the pulsing political critique, is a little more in your face with its dancey intentions, while “Folk Hero Schtick” mixes folk guitars with an ominous bassline and a clubby beat.

The lead single, “Henrietta,” is a standout offering.  Loosely based on Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were cultured by a doctor for research in the 1950s without her permission, Tuton’s funky bass keeps the head nodding as Keating repeats “Oh, Henrietta, we can live on forever,” painting an atmospheric, almost underwater, picture.

Following up Odd Blood, which pushed Yeasayer up the festival ladder with stops at Coachella and Lollapalooza and even onto mainstream radio, surely was a tall task, but the guys do not disappoint.

Fragrant World is an immersive album, one that requires time and a few listens to appreciate the complex dynamics.

Some might call it chaotic, but we think Fragrant World benefits from its heavy arrangements.  Yeasayer has continued to grow as a band without straying too far from the distinctive place they have established for themselves in the musical spectrum.

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