Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Yeasayer – O.N.E.

Whereas with this bloke, it was his voice rather than his face…


Alex Ostroff: Underwritten lyrics and wide-eyed naivete in indie tend to grate (see: Animal Collective) but Yeasayer have somehow turned vague aphorisms and emotion into a major strength. On paper, “Ambling Alp” was a musical self-help book two degrees from The Lion King, but in practice it was one of the best tracks of 2009. Similarly, the overwhelming sense of nostalgia and Rumours-by-way-of-Brooklyn lyrics that characterize “O.N.E.” shouldn’t result in a brilliant pop song, but they somehow pull it off. The unfocused vocals allow for an impressionist blurring of the emotional palette — depending on the listener the song can be regretful, resilient, determined or hopeful. Meanwhile, the groove never lets up; from the clattering percussion, to the reverberating chords that underpin the verses and the buoyant electronic counterpoint ornamenting the chorus, “O.N.E.” positively bounces. (N.B. As it turns out, “O.N.E.” is about recovering from alcoholism, which makes sense in retrospect, but doesn’t really change anything.)

Alex Macpherson: Yeasayer confuse throwing the kitchen sink at a song with having interesting ideas; specifically, from that kitchen sink they only see fit to use the scum and dregs left to moulder after the last round of washing up anyway. Headachey, especially when the bad, blaring lead vocal goes into a bray-off with the bad, blaring backing vocals.

Ian Mathers: I’m torn, because this guy’s voice makes me want to punch him right in the face. I’m not sure why. I mean, the lyrics are only bad in an average kind of way (except for “the well of the night has gone dry,” which, jesus), and the actual music is fairly compelling. In fact, given how much I usually hate Yeasayer’s music, the fact that “O.N.E.” has turned into a bit of an earworm for me is a sign of either greatness or true awfulness; since I just put up with his voice again, I guess it’s the former.

Chuck Eddy: Some theoretically interesting things happening with rhythm and space here, I suppose, eventually adding up to some emaciated semblance of a groove. There’s a hint of a song, too, complete with quasi-Asian melody. And while I can’t decide whether the singing is too plain or too affected (or both?), it’s half functional. As irritating crap in this act’s apparent genre goes, not awful.

Erick Bieritz: “O.N.E.” won’t get Yeasayer completely out from under the Animal Collective umbrella, but trading a few of the Brooklyn-Arabic beardo elements for the scraps falling off the back of the Gothenburg trop-pop bandwagon certainly should perk a few otherwise-indifferent ears. If that tumbling synth line is opportunism, well, maybe too many bands are passing on opportunities to sound like “O.N.E.”

David Moore: About two and a half minutes in this thing stops with the drum-circle-pop and starts hinting at a Maroon 5 demo, which improves it immeasurably. But the band doesn’t seem willing to accept that the song’s best traits are also its dumbest and most easily enjoyable ones. Why torpedo it with an unremarkable lead singer and distracting structural twists when you have a perfectly serviceable disco falsetto and chorus handy?

Pete Baran: There is a point when a small band becomes a big band via the medium of a catchy track which then can also make them overexposed in a matter of weeks. “O.N.E.” is a touch overlong, and I wish the singing was better, but there is no end of invention bouncing around in the track. Robust, funky and proven better than Joe Cocker at least.

Frank Kogan: A terrific pop tune with an uncommitted singer and a smorgasbord of beats and timbres that are an irritating distraction, draining as much energy as they add. This sort of mix-and-match takes more heart and timing and formal sense than this crew seem to have, but the tune is hardy enough to surmount their incompetence, and there are a couple of unexpectedly beautiful interludes.

Doug Robertson: This should be a lot more fun than it actually is, with the calypso-esque tune really brought down by the vocals, which sound like the only time he’s ever known fun is when it comes before “ctional”.

Martin Skidmore: Where are the good indie singers? This vague, flat whine is thoroughly unpleasant to listen to. The music is a bit better, electronica with some hints at experimental ambition. Trouble is, the end results sounds like something rejected for a Depeche Mode B-side, and I never liked Depeche Mode.

John Seroff: Lovely nu-retro blend of Culture Club/Cut Copy with just enough cowbell. The combo of danceability, the earworm hook and the pedigree suggests to me that we’ll be hearing this one on a lot of end-of-year lists. I approve.

Edward Okulicz: Clattering, kinetic and fun; the beats compel you to dance one minute and then the vocal lines are too clipped and tricksy for you to move coherently. Only the slightly poor singing mars this — for a minute, I thought it was going to turn into a 21st century indie Culture Club sort of thing. Lop a minute off, get some kind of washed up ex-alky 80s singer on this and it’s perfect. Already pretty close, though.

Additional Scores

Michaelangelo Matos: [7]
Alfred Soto: [7]

2 Responses to “Yeasayer – O.N.E.”

  1. In my unpublished blurb, I noted the resemblance to Cut Copy, and agree with Ian and Frank about the lead voice’s colorlessness.

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