Yeasayer -Amen and Goodbye Review

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Brooklyn-based four-piece Yeasayer have always taken their listeners on an experimental, meandering journey. Each of their albums, since debuting in 2007, have provided a different sound – from the ethereal and spiritual references in All Hour Cymbals and Fragrant World to the more pop-based concoctions in Odd Blood. After a four-year hiatus, listeners have been eager to hear just what they have generated in their fourth studio album, Amen and Goodbye.
The opening track Daughters of Cain immediately seems to pay homage to their mystical roots. Listeners are eased into the track with eerie, undulating synthesisers, before propelling into ghostly harmonies, reflecting numbers of previous albums. This chilling, Beatles-inspired hymn then spirals into the robotic I Am Chemistry, symbolic of battle between science and religion. Though cleverly figurative, there’s no doubting the second track is a little peculiar. It may just be me, but I am already perplexed by the second line “A C4H10FO2P puts you on your knees.” Whether it’s making some kind of obscure message about poisonous behaviours, or simply trying to add to the diverse ‘hipsterness’ of the album is uncertain, and makes the album less easy to listen to and/or understand. The track makes reference both to its ancestors with elements of choir, but also ties in with the psychedelic pop direction of Amen and Goodbye, as well as the scientific allusions made in this song with whirring synths. The contrast of sounds and handful of discordant genres tossed into one track makes the song all the more bewildering.
Silly Me then follows. Even the title implies a giant juxtaposition between tracks two and three. Though similarly psychedelic-pop based, without the inclusions of all the unnecessary jazz, Silly Me surrounds a much more identifiable topic of blaming yourself in a failed relationship. This, married with vivacious basslines plus infectious, and – dare I say it – pleasingly simple lyricism, makes for a thoroughly refreshing addition to the track list. These conflicting tracks sum up the semantic field of oppositions represented throughout the whole album. This includes a confusing yet intriguing assortment of the funky and up-beat (Silly Me, Dead Sea Scrolls, Gerson’s Whistle) versus the ominous and unworldly (Daughters of Cain, Prophecy Gun, Uma), in addition to the underlying symbolism of religion and science. And then comes the completely needless embellishments of Computer Canticle 1 and Child Prodigy; both ‘songs’ under a minute long that add nothing to the album but a confirmation that, despite their break, Yeasayer are still, very much, hipster. Frankly, they just dumb down what seems to be a mature, philosophical composition. Though it can be completely baffling at times, and there are elements that deplorably clash, Yeasayer have produced an album that heightens their intrigue all the more.

Yeasayer – Amen and Goodbye = 6.5/10

Eleanor Chivers

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