The metaphysical structure of the world leaves humans yearning to explore themselves and their surroundings. These musings create artistic works that attempt to explain how the world is stitched together. The ideation is driven by passion, fear, or curiosity and this artwork created varies from masterpieces to some duds. For the most part, these pieces connect with people and offer a different bridge to thinking.
The new Yeasayer album Amen & Goodbye traverses these difficult ideas by examining the aspects of our existence. Just like a stereotypical person, the first step they resort to during times of stress or uncertainty is a tough concept to explain: God. The album starts with the aptly named “Daughters of Cain” that begs the question of, “where does it all start?” Albeit rather broad, the simplistic question is complemented with spaced out electronic synths that prominently feature lead singer Chris Keating’s voice. While this question is never answered (at least by Yeasayer) the religious overtones continue through the songs “Prophecy Gun” and indirectly on “Gerson’s Whistle.” However, each song takes a different approach to their sound. “Prophecy Gun” features over-bearing bass lines while high pitched whistles and guitar chords whisk the listener through a spacey landscape. As the album matures to “Gerson’s Whistle” the band goes back to “happier” indie-pop vibe to overshadow their dour message. Throughout this, Yeasayer never name God directly other than biblical references in song titles, but explore how a higher power/being/whatever you believe in exists in this world.
Throughout “Prophecy Gun” and “Dead Sea Scrolls” Keating warns of the perils of organized religion and the power it brings to people. The messages of these songs are contrasted by “Gerson’s Whistle” where Keating strives to find an alternative method for his attempt at inner peace. Sonically they share similarities as he attempts to blend his two worlds together. The back and forth of opposing wills troubles Keating throughout Amen & Goodbye as the band stumbles through slightly disjointed sounds.
Fear not, it’s not all gloomy and introspective pondering on Amen & Goodbye. The song “Uma” is all about the wonders of having a kid and what happiness that brings. Also, it’s Yeasayer’s attempt at a power ballad as they try to salvage any emotion the listener may still have. It’s a sweet song that feels just little out of place of the album.
While Yeasayer battle these demons and search for answers, the production is a nicely layered, put together package. They produce shimmering synth beats on songs like “Silly Me” and “I Am Chemistry” and know when to strip it down to airy vocals to drive their point home on “Prophecy Gun” and “Half Asleep”. Just like the album’s message — for every high, there is a low. Amen & Goodbye features more than the necessary amount of interludes (should be less than one) in between their songs, creating a play that doesn’t feel complete.
Amen & Goodbye tries to dive deep, but halfway through realizes that the water is about waist high. The problems of the record are protected by the musical production of the album — but that can only take them so far as the listener is fittingly left searching for more. Yeasayer put out another solid album; it just wasn’t a stalwart that sticks out.
– Eric N.