Wild Mercury Sound

Yeasayer's "All Hour Cymbals"

John Mulvey

One record that’s definitely been growing on me this past couple of weeks is the debut by a Brooklyn band called Yeasayer. At first, “All Hour Cymbals” seemed to be a nice but generic close relative to the TV On The Radio albums – insofar as anything that mixes tribal thump, dreampop textures and barbershop harmonies could be referred to as generic, of course.

Now, though, I’m beginning to think that Yeasayer might actually be stretching this weird hybrid in a more interesting way than their illustrious Brooklyn compatriots. I guess this suspicion is compounded by a vague apathy toward that second TV On The Radio album, which felt to me rather a retread of the first. It was as if TVOTR had become overwhelmed by their own schtick, with their sound becoming so dense and layered that individual melodies were indistinguishable in the general woosh of it all. Something leftfield and opulent had, a little too quickly, got over-familiar.

Yeasayer certainly share TVOTR’s penchant for a rather pillowy sound design - some of the humming synths sound a bit Boards Of Canada, some Tangerine Dream and many have a faintly ‘80s vibe which I can’t quite place; hopefully “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts”, maybe Peter Gabriel (like TVOTR) or Talk Talk; hopefully not Tears For Fears. There’s a lot more going on here, though, not least a certain deployment of space which makes Yeasayer’s music breathe a lot more easily than TVOTR.

But then there are the chants and drum circle grooves that align Yeasayer to some of Animal Collective’s second-generation hippy tribal freak-outs, mixed up with hi-life guitars and some really voluptuous Beach Boys harmonies: “Ah, Weir” is just wonderful, one of those wordless devotional chorales in the vein of “Our Prayer”, then slipping into the fantastically grand “No Need To Worry”. The latter moves slowly and with what appears to be a keen awareness of its own importance, but Yeasayer have both the aesthetic skills and strangeness/silliness to steer clear of pomposity: the melodramatic chant – plus horn voluntaries and grand piano – that crowns the song runs, “No need to worry, we’ve got some jewellery for your mama.” I think, anyway.

I guess this review is starting to read like a list of corny music crit touchstones – something I’m about to compound by mentioning “Wait For The Summer” in the same breath as Lindsey Buckingham and probably “Tusk”. But “All Hour Cymbals” works because Yeasayer are nimble enough to combine all this in pretty original and beguiling ways. I’m reminded a little of that Grizzly Bear album from last year, too, and a sense that some of the New York area’s more imaginative musicians now seem to be making experimental music that has definable blood ties to vintage pop music. It’s as if four very ambitious young men mistook “Smile” for a pagan ritual. Works for me.


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