Yeasayer: Amen & Goodbye (Mute) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, February 29th, 2024  


Amen & Goodbye


Apr 04, 2016 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Critics have always had an uneasy relationship with ambition. It’s not that they don’t want artists to push envelopes, just that there’s an invisible fence within which they like to prescribe the act. Go too far and it’s a sprawl, and for fuck’s sake, don’t let a critic smell the ambition on you or you’ll be deemed too clever for your own good.

Yeasayer, musically, tend to hang out basically just past that perimeter of approved scale and scope, and are alternately slapped and praised for their heady-but-earnest forays into psychedelic pop music. It’s gotta be confusing for them, frankly.

One wonders if it’s that earnest part that rubs the wrong way: Chris Keating and Anand Wilder’s vocal leads in all their sing-song, almost Timberlake-ian glory, doing the most, belting it out stridently rather than hanging back mumblecore under cover of Lake Reverb.

Maybe it’s the genre-jumping, the need to give each outing its own sonic stamp. This time it’s the bevy of semi-exotic acoustic instruments the band had laying around the remote Catskills studio where the album was recorded (see thewhat? Sitar? Bouzouki?neatly punctuating the chorus bars of “I Am Chemistry”), along with a nearby geodesic dome in which they concocted boisterous multi-part choral harmonies.

Maybe the band can scarcely keep up with themselves. In this case, we get another story for the “tapes were nearly destroyed” trove, with producer Joey Waronker saving the day rebuilding mixes after the studio flooded, damaging two reels of tape. Prog-album interstitials like the eerie “Computer Canticle 1” or the Bach-ian harpsichord and mock applause of “Child Prodigy” might in reality be ghosts of complete songs.

But there are those critics (the ones still happily letting “Ambling Alp” play out in their headphones years later) for whom those last three paragraphs actually represent a remarkable consistency of vision, or at least an idiosyncratic recklessness, a dependable sense of adventure.

There are those who would even encourage Yeasayer. Yay, Yeasayer, keep saying itno, singing it, like at the top of your lungs, please, and with ripe Technicolor couplets like “are we the logos/in neurons of the brain/maintaining voltage gradients across a membrane” from “Daughters of Cain.” You need a stage-setter to match that could-be-concept-album cover art, after all. And yes, take chances like “Dead Sea Scrolls,” which flirts with hokeyness before an incredibly cool sax solo blows the lid off a harpsichord. And maybe modulate “I Am Chemistry” and bring in a women’s chorus to offer a bit of floral wisdom: “My momma told me never fool with oleander.” Why wouldn’t you? You could also bait with ‘80s Erasure synthpop and exercise enthusiastic falsettos on “Silly Me,” and, furthermore, call a song “Silly Me,” because that’s just what you would do, isn’t it?

But most of all, remain weirdly divisive. Get the critics throwing extraneous italics around, prescribing heavily in their last few paragraphs (please double your dosage).

Get us jumping to first-person pronouns by the end of these intellectual exercises and I’m afraid you’ll even have won. This time, anyway. (

Author rating: 7.5/10

Rate this album
Average reader rating: 7/10


Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published


Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

There are no comments for this entry yet.