Amen and Goodbye, the fourth studio album from Brooklyn psychedelic-pop experimentalists Yeasayer, is their most immediate album yet. It is so full of rich, sing-along hooks across its thirteen tracks in fact, that they all jostle to position themselves in your head, hoping to be the one that gets stuck there the most.
This doesn’t mean that they have spent a four year gap in-between albums merely perfecting a unique brand of pop, as this is simultaneously their most thematically dense album to date, with more casual references to biblical and mythical imagery tossed around in-between hopeful festival sing-a-longs. In this sense, you could say the band frequently flirt with “Anthony Kiedis Syndrome”- dense lyrics that sound meaningful, but prove to be utter nonsense when held up to deeper scrutiny. Divine Simulacrum is possibly the biggest offender, with lyrics about “manic pixie dream girls” disguising the fact the song is named after a reference to Runescape. Their pseudo-intellectualism, for the most part, doesn’t get the better of them- it combines the varying influences of all three previous albums into something oddly straightforward.
In an alternate reality, this is the album that should elevate them onto bigger stages and deeper into the public consciousness- it achieves the rare combination of actually achieving the sum of its ambitions, whilst simultaneously making their sound tangible for a new, unassuming audience. Silly Me, one of the album’s four lead singles, manages to overtake Odd Blood’s O.N.E as their biggest proposal for mainstream crossover to date. With a simplistically bouncy Passion Pit-style synth line, it is the only track on the album that seems to present an emotion that feels authentic, as opposed to vocalists/lyricists Chris Keating and Anand Wilder writing under the guise of a character. There has always been a spiritual element to the band’s songwriting- but when they let that well of lyrical influences run dry and write comparatively normal tracks, they prove they are every bit as unique.
Because this may be the band’s most ambitious album to date – but it is certainly their least experimental, no matter how many genres it hops or how dense the production threatens to become. The sole problem is arguably this tonal inconsistency; we can go from the “bah bah bah” sing-song of Dead Sea Scrolls into the hypnotic Prophecy Gun without so much as a flinch. It is a showcase for their pure versatility as a band, being able to write immediate hooks and dense soundscapes with an unshakeable confidence that never once wavers throughout. But it does ensure the album falls shy of greatness; despite being their best yet, it lacks a cohesion throughout that transforms it from a collection of great tracks into a full-blooded work of art that perfectly encapsulates the band’s idiosyncratic influences.
This Yeasayer article was written by Alistair Ryder, a GIGsoup contributor