Amen & Goodbye

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Always challenging themselves and their listeners with a shifting musical paella of contrasting timbres and style influences, Yeasayer were joined by drummer Joey Waronker of Atoms for Peace in a production role during the late stages of their fourth studio album, Amen & Goodbye. In keeping with the bricolage aspect, the recording also features performances from a diverse selection of guests, including folk singer Suzzy Roche and guitar virtuoso Steve Marion aka Delicate Steve (both appear on "Gerson's Whistle"). What proves to be a trademark of the album is introduced in a prologue-type track, the nearly two-minute "Daughters of Cain." Razor-sharp vocal harmonies reminiscent of "Bohemian Rhapsody" settle in for appearances throughout, and also set the stage for an out-of-time convergence of the past and -- via outer spacy, mechanical synth textures -- the future. The sprawling "I Am Chemistry" offers an album snapshot, incorporating sunny harmonies, as well as '80s keyboard tones, 2010's otherworldly effects, acoustic instrumentation, a children's choir, and the timeless noise of hammering. Compared to prior LPs, there are fewer hints of R&B and more of John Lennon on Amen & Goodbye. World rhythms and scales are also woven into the design, as is customary for the band, such as the Middle Eastern influence apparent on "Half Asleep." Most of the tunes are discernible and dancy, such as on the new wavy "Dead Sea Scrolls" and catchy "Cold Night," though Yeasayer makes room for songs like the elegant, more explorative "Prophecy Gun;" the Beatlesque, Theremin-graced ballad "Uma;" and the trippy and percussive "Divine Simulacrum." Typical of the album and how it plays with expectations, the half-minute "Computer Canticle I" features whirring synths but also earthy, acoustic drums, at once evoking tribal plains and space sirens. This combining of the human-organic and the quirky-mechanical not only rewards repeat listens, but ultimately fascinates with warm alienation.

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