As a band, Yeasayer could be defined by little other than reinvention. From their first two releases, All Hour Cymbals and Odd Blood, the band has evolved each time. While their second album drew criticism for the band’s change from more psychedelic music to poppier sounds, Yeasayer has managed to morph yet again.
Like the previous two albums, Fragrant World shares Yeasayer’s ever-present experimental weird-pop sound. Fragrant World, however, rests upon more rough-edged, electronic synth-pop tones that establish the album as a representation of a dirtier, grittier Yeasayer.
Regardless of Yeasayer’s experimental tendencies, Fragrant World might just be their most consistent album yet. But in this lies the album’s greatest flaw – at times, the perpetual electronic wob becomes almost numbing to the ears. The album’s full tracklist is thus a daunting endeavor. At times, Fragrant World can seem rushed and messy. Still, the characteristic weirdness of Yeasayer remains, and Keating’s ebbing vocals continue to bring out the sounds that make Yeasayer so charming. Yeasayer’s pop hooks and intricate synthesis of instruments and genres prove them to be just as clever as they were previously.
While the often droning sounds that make up the album may be tedious, the stories within each song are compelling. Fragrant World consists of a multitude of references to the nature of life and death (see “Fingers Never Bleed,” “Longevity” and “No Bones”), observing the immediacy of life and all the intricacies in between. “Henrietta,” arguably the album’s most acclaimed track, considers the eternal life of a woman who had her cancerous cells used for research.
Although perhaps more difficult than their previous albums, Fragrant World demonstrates Yeasayer’s relentless efforts to create something prolific and beyond their comfort zone.
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