Unfocused, out-of-touch gloss pop.
Brooklyn experimental rock trio Yeasayer’s fourth studio album, Amen & Goodbye, is far, far too much of apparently good things. Pristine production, genre-hopping pop tracks and smorgasbord instrumentation characterize the release. What the album lacks, unfortunately, is a realistic emotional core.
Without Yeasayer’s lyrics, Amen & Goodbye plays like a glossy musical voyage. The trio explores up-to-date, H&M dressing room-worthy synth pop (“Silly Me”), throwback funk (“Dead Sea Scrolls”) and even baroque pop (“Gerson’s Whistle”). Band members Chris Keating, Ira Wolf Tuton and Anand Wilder are all clever and careful song crafters, and the arrangements are acceptable despite Amen & Goodbye’s overall lack of focus.
Kitschy and bizarre lyrics, however, sink the album. The second track — “I Am Chemistry” — fixates on chemical references, such as, “It’s a gas, a sarin for high tea / A C4H10FO2P puts you on your knees.” Yeasayer’s lyrics epitomize the failings of detached, pointless indie pop lines; at points the songs are almost comically out of touch. “Divine Simulacrum,” a low point for the album, opens with Chris Keating crooning, “It’s just a crush, don’t beat yourself up” repetitively. However, when Keating later sings, “She’s not your average station vixen / Or a manic pixie dream girl,” he sounds whiny and uncomfortable.
The shortcomings of Amen & Goodbye are especially disappointing coming from a band that was long known for out-of-the-box compositions and bounding energy. Returning to tracks like “Ambling Alp” from the band’s sophomore release, Odd Blood, calls the descent into sharp relief. The same themes of self-deprecation and perseverance appear, but they sound exciting and youthful over the hyperactive, intricate arrangement. Yeasayer is doubtlessly still a band of excellent songwriters, but they seem to have lost the audacious, in-your-face indie vibe that made their earlier releases such plain, good fun.