Every Yeasayer album feels like a reaction to the one that came before it. The psychedelic pop of Odd Blood was an mainstream expansion of All Hour Cymbal’s experimental oddness, the grim electronics of Fragrant World turned Odd Blood’s fun mood on its head, and now Amen & Goodbye sees Yeasayer writing a largely acoustic, joyously scattershot record of folksy pop songs.
Yeasayer have always been quintessentially odd, but Amen & Goodbye takes their quirk to an previously undiscovered level. Lead single I Am Chemistry is one of the stranger pop songs in recent memory, alternating between a 90’s rock hook, pan flute interludes, chugging guitars, arpeggiating synthesisers, and something that sounds like a sitar. It should feel confused, or aimless, but the band’s enthusiasm is the glue that keeps it together. Also, the hook is just simply really fun. It’s the first proper song on the record, and it sets the wildly inconsistent, but somehow effective tone.
Silly Me was the other pre-release single for the album, and it’s a slightly more typical (and even more catchy) pop song. The “silly me” hook, surrounded by chiming synth bells is the most euphoric chorus on the album, but they’re contrasted against the gothic bassline in the verses. Dead Sea Scrolls follows a similarly light tone sonically, with cheery guitar chords and dramatic pianos over a crunchy drum beat, although the chorus – “mark upon the dead sea scrolls” – introduces some darkness into the track.
Unfortunately, sometimes the band’s conflicting instincts seem to get the better of them. There are 4 interlude-style tracks, which is 3 too many, and some tracks feature odd interruptions that feel out of place and derail the mood of the song. Cold Night has an enjoyable groove to its guitar and drums, but the piano, horns, and backing vocals just feel piled on wildly, which is before mentioning another brief digression into pan flutes. Whilst some tracks manage to make the rapidly changing nature of their sound work, some don’t, and the band’s refusal to stick to a sound for more than a few minutes at a time grows tiring by the end of the record.
In spite of perhaps overshooting in terms of added quirk and variety, Amen & Goodbye shows Yeasayer doing what they do best: crafting catchy and inventive pop hooks. The standout tracks are endlessly listenable, and whilst the entire album isn’t completely consistent, it’s enough of a ride that it’s worth sticking with.