The band Yeasayer is based in Brooklyn, New York and they’ve been active since 2006. Few people know about them and this should be changed immediately, as they are utterly remarkable.
Everything about them is strange and extraordinary, starting with their unusual choice for a name, Yeasayer (pronounced “yay-sayer”), meaning they’re voting FOR something, as in they give a thumb up, in the way people used to via voice vote, saying “yea” or “nay”. Even the names of the band members are less common, to say the least: Anand Wilder (guitar; Anand means “happiness” in Hindu), Ira Wolf Tuton (bass), Chris Keating (lead singer), Luke Fasano (drums). I only listed the main instruments they play, but they’re technically proficient, fully equipped with different music gear, from keyboards to rattles, sitars and synthesizers. During live performances, they make use of any possible object that can create musical notes, that would evoke something, to this day having produced wonderful music with the help of beer bottles, teaspoons, keys, harmonica, or by clapping their hands, whistling, keeping a certain rhythm by tapping on the floor with the hands or feet. A must see is their performance at Jools Holland and the Take Away Show n°87, from Paris, where they began singing on the streets and in the French metro, to the satisfaction of the travelers. Also, I tend to think that Anand and his cousin, Ira Wolf, are of some Native American ancestry, as they look really exotic in that sense. On stage, they have their typical dance moves, Chris, the singer, in particular, dancing in a quirky, seizure-like mode, resemblant to John Frusciante in his collaborations with Josh Klinghoffer.
The album cover does not mean to confuse you even more, but to portray the exact same thing the band is trying to put across through their music. We are shown a black on orange polka-dotted background, with a Muslim woman who lifts her reddish veil only to reveal a face replaced with a complicate structure of intertwined tracks, leading everywhere, in the likes of a roller coaster. The woman is wearing an open white robe, uncovering an animal-like fur. Behind her, a group of Muslim people also dressed in robes are apparently following her obediently. It perfectly describes what we should expect of the album to be: a collage of different musical genres, cultures and states of mind.The cover’s oddity makes it even more powerful, it’s not encrypting, but revelatory as to what follows, the surreal auditory experience. They describe their music as “Middle Eastern-psych-snap-gospel”. I could not agree more!
Label: We Are Free
1. Sunrise – 4:07 The album starts with some low tones of the piano, yet with uplifting voices sending a prayer to the high heavens. There are several beats that stay throughout the song, either made by the drums, or by the repetitive clapping of the hands. The track gets confusing at one point, there are multiple, distinct and enticing sounds that appeal to you and you don’t know which one to follow, as listening to it as a whole gets pretty overwhelming. In the second part of the song, the bass takes control, but you can no longer distinguish the voices, to whom they belong, due to the distort and reverb effects. The synthesizer helps creating a psychedelic atmosphere, with different effects used, such as noises with no connection to one another being played at the same time, giving a haunting feel to the song. It all ends with the band members mumbling ritual-like chants, in order to be given the gift of immortality, of reaching nirvana by making everything seem possible within everyone’s human powers.
2. Wait for the Summer – 4:53 This track has to be my favorite due to various reasons which may be disclosed in the song’s description and its overall feel. It begins like a mirage, uplifting, with the melodic sounds of a sitar and a tambourine following along, seemingly of Oriental, Middle Eastern influence and with lyrics that resemble the chants of Native Americans. A subtle cello makes its entrance by being the backbone of the chorus, although it gets mixed with all the different sounds that wouldn’t go together too well if you think of it, but once you give the song a listen, it makes total sense. Hand clapping and a cappella/Indian uttering of the lyrics make it mystical and mindwarping. The second part of the song suddenly shifts to a folky tune, sounding more like a ballad, mellow and peaceful, despite of the blunt lyrics. The drum takes the lead in the last section of the song, giving it a tribal feel, with African ritual sonorities to it.
3. 2080 – 5:24 While echoing in your head, spiralling, the lead guitar creates such futuristic, enchanting melodies with every chord that is picked.. The song speaks about ceasing the moment, enjoying life at its fullest, starting right here and now, not letting ourselves subjects to fate and have great expectations from the future, we should just take advantage of everything in this exact moment in time and not waste a second. The high-pitched chorus instills faith and hope towards the times we’re living in. The next section is fast-spoken, barely intelligible at a first listen, but it once more reminds of ancestral hymns, incantations of the Native American people. The song ends with small children’s voices singing the same thing as before, showing us that they too have faith in the present and future.
4. Germs – 3:13 There’s a Middle Eastern beat to this slow song, sorrowful and sad to some extent, with a folky style, by the use of rattles and a bit of a cappella singing in the beginning, leading even to opera, high-pitched tonalities provided by the ever so versatile bassist. Being a song about germs – literally – even the lyrics describe this and it gives a more depressing tone, as if you were catching a virus or something along those lines, it offers a realistic and melodic approach to being sick. Right in the middle of the song there is a short, upbeat guitar solo, accompanied by hand clapping, that is supposed to cheer everyone up and it really works in that way. The chorus has a background of a tune played on the xylophone. At one point, it even tricks you into thinking they’re borrowing something from the Wild West, the cowboy movie soundtracks.
5. Ah, Weir – 1:21 This track starts off with a lamentation carried all throughout the song, being backed up only by the electronic music devices, a hand drum and a guiro. String instruments have a cameo appearance and the bass can also be heard every now and then in this short melody. The song is just an acoustic one, with “ah” repeatedly sang in arpeggios, like some sort of a sigh.
6. No Need to Worry – 5:26 The second part of the album is slower-paced, darker, grimmer with sorrow-evoking instruments, especially the piano and the cello. The lyrics are sang in a gospel form, the beat being kept with the use of a tambourine. After the first two verses, there is a breakout of a joyous tune that, unfortunately, fades away as quick as it first came to life. Some sort of burial ritual seems to take place, the instruments are mourning, even the trumpet, the drum keeps a rhythm similar to that of a marching band, but in a sombre way, the guitar solo is sad and in despair.
7. Forgiveness – 3:40 This song begins powerfully, with doubled and echoed vocals. It changes pace and erupts in a wonderfully melodic and sweet guitar riff, suitable for what the lyrics imply, asking for forgiveness, getting redemption. The chorus includes mystical sounds, of Oriental origin, which confer the song a feeling of peacefulness.
8. Wait for the Wintertime – 4:52 This is supposedly the correspondent of the song with a similar name from the first half of the album (Wait For The Summer), but it doesn’t come off as full of strength as its predecessor. It begins cryptically, mysteriously, due to the sounds produced by the piano, like raindrops slowly hitting the ground. In a tango-like fashion, emerges a strange and unexpected rhythm. To the sound of the maracas, a warning (moreover – a cry) is sent out for those who just wait for things to take place, for goals to be reached and dreams to come true: Everyone should start doing something about it now, we should not only have dreams, but we should also live them, making them turn into reality.
9. Worms – 4:07 A mesmerizing, Hindu-style melody flow is rushing in from the beginning of this song. Towards the middle of the song, an organ plays a neutral melody, and then the merry Indian tune bursts yet again, this time, at the end, giving the impression to be losing the frequency of a radio station. The song ends eerily, other-worldly.
10. Waves – 4:57 This soft ballad is the base of the preaching that goes on in the lyrics. It induces a state of relaxation and harmony, just like its title claims, bringing a certain calm and toning down even more the second half of the album.
11. Red Cave – 4:59 This song also has some country and folk roots, in spite of an Oriental touch that is present all throughout the track. It’s more on the acoustic side, it uses classic guitars and a magic sitar in the background. The storytelling is done via a cappella singing provided by all the members of the band. Well into the song’s last quarter, a characteristic Native American chanting can be heard, only to turn into the hypnotizing effect of the sitar and the hand drum beating an ancestral rhythm.
My experience with Yeasayer dates back to July 2008, when an absolutely peculiar and delusional video was shown on MTV2. It was the one for Wait For The Summer, 90 percent of which is edited and created on the computer. The single released for this track was masterized, and as a result, it’s at a more upbeat tempo, more vibrant and compelling. The album version is great, nonetheless, it grew on me after having bought it, but I also adore the single, how they modified it to be more commercial, so to speak.
Not being a fan of Buddha-Bar, Chill Out Sessions and so on, I was extremely pleasantly surprised by Yeasayer’s album, which is the perfect alternative for the relaxation CD’s I mentioned above.
It goes without saying that I recommend this album to everyone, no matter what music you usually listen to, this will be like a breath of fresh air. Get ready to embark on a great adventure, a truly initiatic journey while listening to Yeasayer’s album, All Hour Cymbals..
*Also posted on other sites under the same username, Madeline841*