Yeasayer - Amen & Goodbye (B-)

Yeasayer has never been on my radar in terms of releases I’ve been excited about; I’ve listened to their three prior releases, their sophomore effort Odd Blood being my favorite, but they’ve never stuck with me. I might attribute this to timing, since it’s groups that push their own boundaries that I am generally drawn too. That aside, when I loved their single, “I Am Chemistry,” I found myself, for the first time, really excited about the upcoming Amen & Goodbye. Whether it was the surprise of the chorus of children taking over the bridge or the eastern feel that brought me thoughts of alt J’s gem “Taro,” I may never know. What I did know was that it was good. Really good. Now the album is here, and I’d say it’s their most accessible release to date, which they achieved by drawing on some of their best work from each of their previous releases. 

It still amazes me what a full and expansive sound this three piece crew from Brooklyn has created, just as Muse does with grandiose stadium rock, Yeasayer does with experimental and psychedelic rock. One of the biggest changes they’ve implemented is adding a few instrumental tracks, which do wonders in creating bridges when it comes to tonal changes. As a result, the continuity of the record is the smoothest I’ve heard from them to date. Just listen to the five song cycle starting with “Prophecy Gun:” It leads into the 30 second interlude “Computer Canticle 1” which flows nicely into “Divine Simulacrum.” That’s followed by another instrumental, “Child’s Prodigy,” leading us to “Gernson’s Whistle.” The two instrumental tracks that connect the three songs, songs that otherwise wouldn’t mesh, but now support each other inside a bigger picture. This shows how the scope of the album was developed as a cohesive idea rather than on a track to track basis. Among the album’s standouts my favorite has to be “Half Asleep.” The addition of the augmented vocals, giving Keating multiple parts to play, adds a different element to the sound, especially during the last minute when they really drive the harmonies home. The overall feel brought me back to one of my favorite tracks from a few years back, Stealing Sheep’s “Shut Eye.” Yeasayer has always focused heavily on harmonies, and despite the experimental sounds they’ve come to represent, I’d say it’s the strongest part of their sound. Vocal layerings and harmonies, while often heard, are rarely done on an elite level; Yeasayer is one group that executes them with an impressive assuredness. 

Lyrically it’s more of the same as they tend to lean on larger themes of questioning life and spirituality and though their musings don’t always work, their presentation does more than enough to smooth out the rough edges. Their constant push towards something bigger is commendable. Honestly, I think this is the first time I’m giving them the time they deserve and I wasn’t disappointed. While their previous efforts seemed to have a more narrowed and definable scope, the expanse here makes for a good listen.