Yeasayer already have two fantastic albums under their belt. The band has been praised for its eccentric-pop sensibilities, at once marrying arrestingly strange studio manipulation with melodies that are impossible to ignore. Their third album, FRAGRANT WORLD, now focuses less on the eccentric and more on the pop. FRAGRANT WORLD finds the band forward-thinking, but it might not be forward toward a direction fans have been hoping. Band member Chris Keating would describe the new album as “Blade Runner Across 110th Street,” at once referencing Ridley Scott’s dystopian film from the 80’s and R&B legend Bobby Womack’s 1972 hit, and it’s a surprisingly apt description.
FRAGRANT WORLD is less dense than either ALL HOUR CYMBALS or ODDBLOOD — the trio have scaled down their sound and shaved away much of the instrumentation. What’s left is mainly percussion and a synthesizer or two: it sounds like futuristic R&B. Sometimes the sound works extraordinarily well, but sometimes it falls a bit flat. “Blue Paper,” for example relies heavily on hi-hats, falsetto, and icey synths — it’s one of the album’s best tracks. “Longevity” finds the band sounds sleek and mechanical — while it’s production makes it one of the glossiest of the songs here, there’s not much melody to really endure. Lead single “Henrietta” is a decent track, but ending seemingly goes on for forever without much of a payoff. I never thought I would hear a pop song about unearthing the corpse of Ronald Reagan, but listeners will get this chance with “Reagan’s Skeleton,” a song that pulses with a great dance beat. “Folk Hero Shtick” wobbles between arrangements, but its marriage of bizarre implementation (is that a recorder?) and fuzzy dance beats is a winner.
Unfortunately, this album never reaches the heights of previous releases like “2080,” “Madder Red,” “Tightrope,” or “ONE.” In an effort to reign in their once chaotic sound, the band has stripped themselves of their quirky melody in most tracks. They are able to strike a few peaks with FRAGRANT WORLD, and it’s an interesting and slick detour for Yeasayer; it’s just not quite the album we’ve come to expect.
For those listeners that are unfamiliar with Yeasayer, I would recommend either of their prior two releases as better places to start listening to the band. This album might be a bit more accessible than those past releases however. I would recommend the band (though not necessarily this album in particular) to fans of Neon Indian, MGMT, and Animal Collective. Essential tracks to sample/download: “Blue Paper,” “Reagan’s Skeleton,” and “Folk Hero Shtick.”