Yeasayer Remain Brilliantly Weird on ‘Amen & Goodbye’ (ALBUM REVIEW)


yeasayerlpYeasayer is one of those bands that sound different on each album, a fact that is both refreshing and frustrating to fans. Though each album sounds distinctively like Yeasayer and like perhaps no one else in the industry, each channels their sound through different filters. All Hour Cymbols is a psychedelic album with Middle-Eastern influences, Odd Blood brings in more rock guitars and pop hooks, and Fragrant World flirts with electronica.

For their fourth album, Amen & Goodbye, Yeasayer mostly leaves behind the thumping bass of Fragrant World, combining aesthetics from their first two albums. It is a pastoral album high in theatrics – from backing choirs to musical interludes – that is driven as much by guitar riffs as by drum loops.

Lead single “I am Chemistry” is the album’s most infectious track, so catchy that it is able to overcome Chris Keating’s weak lyrics. It’s basically just an entire song of Keating comparing himself to toxic chemicals (“A sulfur dichloride with ethylene; I say it again: I am chemistry”).  The wordplay is forgiven, however, thanks to the ornately layered music and dramatic choir.

The bouncy pop song “Silly Me” finds Anand Wilder describing an unhealthy relationship through warm synths and an idiosyncratic guitar line. “Silly me, overreacting,” he sings sarcastically, clearly not overreacting. “Swear not to disagree anymore,” he promises. “I still never know which words I’m supposed to say.”

Spiritual and scientific themes and a general search for meaning are abundant throughout Amen & Goodbye. Opener “Daughters of Cain” asks, “Are we the sons of Seth and the daughters of Cain,” referring to the biblical ancestors, “or are we logos in neurons of the brain?” In the spooky yet highly danceable “Dead Sea Scrolls,” Keating uses pagan imagery to paint a picture of manipulation through false purpose. “It’s just another fake out,” he sings, “a mockup of the Dead Sea Scrolls.”

Wilder uses religious imagery to describe his infatuation in “Divine Simulacrum.” Though at one point he admits that it’s “just a crush,” Wilder goes on to describe her as being “carved from memories” before admitting, “You cannot leave her vision.” As the music gets more grandiose and dramatic, Wilder sings, “She’s Divine Simulacrum and you can’t help the attraction.”

If there’s a complaint about Amen & Goodbye, it’s that, like all Yeasayer albums, it’s too busy. The band loads too many themes, questions, and musical influences into the mix without ever letting any of them truly breathe and take hold. However, like every other Yeasayer album, Amen & Goodbye is a brilliantly catchy collection of eclectic art rock that is entertaining throughout.

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