There are few bands that can evolve as effortlessly as trio of art rock Brooklynites, Yeasayer. On their fourth LP, Amen & Goodbye, they don’t just reconcile the worldbeat freak rock of All Hour Cymbals, psychedelic pop of Odd Blood, and brooding, dark electronica of Fragrant World, but manage to transcend time and space itself with a mélange of biblical allusions, futuristic sound, and countless other seemingly disparate stylistic and thematic juxtapositions.
Switching from their one figure per album cover tradition to a Sgt. Pepper’s-esque tableau immediately visualizes this idea of there being many influences (A&G is also, appropriately, the first time they enlisted an outside producer), but while The Beatles used their identity experiment to sever themselves from their past, in a way Yeasayer solidifies and combines theirs. Both groups took the chance to evolve, though, and Yeasayer evolve forwards, backwards, and sideways across boundaries in all directions simultaneously, exhibited especially in the interludes that punctuate A&G with a sort of time-traveled erraticism across “Computer Canticle 1”’s tech hymn of tribal space noise and “Child Prodigy”’s baroque celebration.
The recording process too felt an odd situational paradox - recording live as a band for the first time in the wilderness of upstate New York, Yeasayer had to battle the audible hum of a nearby electric fence or wrangle escaped goats if they turned it off. With normally only about two and a half year breaks in between full-lengths, A&G required an atypically long four to procure, explained at least in part by a rainstorm leak damaging much of their tapes (such are the dangers of analogue recording). Not all was lost, however, with that same precipitation providing the rainfall background to “Gerson’s Whistle,” which appropriately concludes, “Troublemakers make the world go round.”
It’s no mistake Yeasayer both references the similarly wet Genesis tale of the Great Deluge in album opener “Daughters of Cain” and shows a rotting, severed Trump dictator head in “I Am Chemistry”’s faux-claymation post-apocalyptic hellscape of a music video, saying, “Living in America, you're faced with presidential candidates talking about the end times, and everything is so God-laden. It became a theme for us when we were thinking about lyrics, reflecting on our culture and these big questions about religion." (Political forays are nothing new to the band after the stygian pulse of Fragrant World’s “Reagan’s Skeleton.”)