Sunday, March 22, 2009

Review: Yeasayer - All Hour Cymbals (* * * * 1/2)

If you've noticed the date on this review, you may be thinking that discussing an album released in 2007 in 2009 is unnecessary, and generally I'd agree with you. Unfortunately, I missed out on Yeasayer the year they released their stunning debut, All Hour Cymbals, only catching up with them recently after hearing their fantastic new song on the Dark Was the Night compilation (go check it out, it's called "Tightrope"). Now that I've finally had the opportunity to hear the record that started it all, I felt that this review needed writing, simply to inform any who might not yet be familiar with this exciting band why this deserves your attention. Quite simply, All Hour Cymbals is one of the best, if not THE best psychedelic rock album in recent memory, a record that pushes boundaries while remaining approachable and immensely enjoyable.

In my experience, at least recently, most albums seem to be front-loaded with many of the better tunes, and All Hour Cymbals certainly follows that trend with an amazing three-song introduction. "Sunrise" opens with solid drum stomp with subtle keys and guitars behind singer Anand Wilder's semi-nonsensical phrases, then cruises along, building layers of instruments and vocal harmony before fading into "Wait for the Summer," a spacey, sitar-laced, psych-rock tune. "2080," the record's first single and the third track, sounds a bit more traditional at first, with Beach Boys-esque harmonies climaxing in a group-shout chorus that even manages to includes a choir of children without seeming gimmicky (well, as much as that's possibly, anyway). The band find an excellent balance between psychedelic experimentation and the familiar musical elements that keep the songs from becoming too abstract while still allowing them to remain fresh and interesting. The lyrics are kept simple and frequently repetitive, but while Yeasayer may not be great storytellers, they know their way around a great vocal hook or sing-a-long chorus.

The rest of the album doesn't quite reach the incredibly high standard set by the first three tracks, but the results are consistently great throughout. "Forgiveness" starts with a trippy, head-spinning introduction before settling into a rhythmic groove which shifts subtly a few times before fading out. "Wait for the Wintertime" is a noisier, angry, tune that uses horns and raw guitar to make an intense explosion of sound, and the superb closer, "Red Cave," is the most folk tune of the bunch, a more straightforward acoustic song featuring four-part harmony provided by all band members. The variation on All Hour Cymbals might be distracting if not for the group's ability to explore so many directions while maintaining enough of a signature sound that keeps the record focused and comprehensible.

At every turn, the band show remarkable musicianship and a love for the unusual that makes their debut such an exciting and surprising album. The music contains elements of the psychedelic rock of the sixties and seventies, but the band approach the songs with a fresh perspective and create something entirely their own. Yeasayer are currently in the works on a new record, but make sure you pick this one up, All Hour Cymbals is an album not to be missed.

Oh, and you should seriously check out these mostly acapella performances on La Blogotheque; fantastic.


OD said...

This album is awesome. Really looking forward to their next release.

Dustin said...

Great recommendation. The Take Away Video was absolutely amazing.