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Yeasayer transcends its early buzz-band status with Odd Blood

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Oddballs: Yeasayer - COURTESY OF JASON FRANK ROTHENBERG
  • Courtesy of Jason Frank Rothenberg
  • Oddballs: Yeasayer

More keenly than most, Yeasayer represents the burgeoning post-millennial aesthetic. It's a style that defies easy categorization, encourages the cross-pollination of pop and fringe genres, and seeks to express itself in ways that subvert the typical mainstream/underground duality indie music has employed over the last several decades. Only two albums into its career, Yeasayer seems bent on engaging fresh musical possibilities rather than rehashing old news.

Although dubbed a Brooklyn band -- consistent with their experimental, genre-bending approach -- the main members attended the same Baltimore high school as Animal Collective. Yeasayer's Chris Keating, Anand Wilder and Ira Wolf Tuton were five years behind their boundary-pushing peers, but Animal Collective's success inspired them to pursue their own idiosyncratic sound. It didn't much fit in Baltimore, but found a home in New York's adventurous scene.

The title of Yeasayer's 2007 debut, All Hours Cymbals, was a subtle dig aimed at the typical rock band's over-reliance on crash cymbals. The album blends world-music elements and chanting, choir vocals into an undulating wide-screen tapestry that combines the expansiveness of prog-rock and the po-mo collage of acts like Dirty Projectors and Vampire Weekend. Lyrically, it balances apocalyptic spirit ("2080") against moody carpe diem ("No Need to Worry"). 

All Hours Cymbals generated loads of fauxhemian blogster buzz and overheated critical genuflection. But Yeasayer's February follow-up, Odd Blood, suggests that exuberant reception hadn't heralded another flash-in-the-pan. 

Odd Blood is either futuristic groove-heavy psych-pop or a Pro-Tools brand of baroque-pop built for the dance floor. Though elements of Its music are often first conceived from jams, it comes to life on the computer, where Yeasayer will loop it, then generate corresponding beats, tones and melodies. 

Recorded in the rented Woodstock, N.Y., cabin of percussionist Jerry Marotta (Peter Gabriel, John Mayer), Odd Blood significantly updates Yeasayer's sound by incorporating dance and electronic elements with a strong pop sensibility. The songs are much more to the point, though still spacey. Swooping, dipping and swelling synths lend an '80s tone, while clubby rhythms crackle and pulse with a subwoofer-busting throb. The production is crisper and the arrangements denser, and thematically, it's much more visceral, concerned with love and life. But the crucial advance is vocal and musical hooks that grab hold like industrial epoxy. 

 

Yeasayer with Washed Out. 8 p.m. Tue., Sept. 28. Mr. Small's Theatre, 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. $20. All ages. 412-821-4447 or www.mrsmalls.com

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