The new Yeasayer disc, “Fragrant World,” is not technically a sophomore release (it’s actually the band’s third studio-record). However, it faces many of the same fabled pressures of an act’s second album, as it is the follow-up to 2010’s universally-acclaimed “Odd Blood,” which catapulted the group to “It-band” status (recent releases by Animal Collective and The Dirty Projectors, among others, face similar pressure.)
Yeasayer navigates this potentially-tense moment in their career brilliantly with “Fragrant World.” If the record lacks “Odd Blood”’s urgency (which to my ears it definitely does- there’s little if any of “Mondegreen” or “O.N.E.”’s edgy dance-rock here), this is instead a more confident, reflective, mature Yeasayer. Comparatively, this record is almost ‘laid back’… but not in a bad way.
To my ears, the most notable aspect of this album’s interest is the instrumentation. Yeasayer has managed something many musicians might find unthinkable here- somehow, they’ve stripped even more of the ‘organic’ instruments from their mix (I can only locate a couple brief snippets of sound of this disc that I’m entirely confident are made by guitars) while making a record that I would be FAR less comfortable describing as ‘electronic’ than their last. This is not a synth record, this is not an electro record, this is DEFINITELY not a dance or EDM record. This is a well-written psychedelic indie-pop record constructed largely from a palette of ‘What the hell makes THAT noise?’ sounds.
In my eyes, it’s about time that rock songwriting caught up with hip-hop production in this regard. This is a ‘think outside the box’ record that amazingly manages not to SOUND like one, unless you’re either stubbornly partial to the safety of the box, or you’re paying close attention to the xylophones, pizzicato, noise-swells, glitches, melodica, etcetera that sit in the spaces that guitars might otherwise go. This album should be required-listening for every musician in a guitar-bass-drum cliché-format rock band, to fuel a little thought toward how their songs are put together, and why.
Oh, and those sub-hits throughout are IMPRESSIVELY low.