Yeasayer is a band known primarily for two things: solid singles and excellent live shows. This determination and energy has not translated to the studio, however, as previous albums strived to reach innovation and expressiveness, but fell short.
Fragrant World unfortunately continues this trend. Yeasayer return to psychedelic synth-pop, with traceable influences from an array of genres. Hazy synthesizers and arpeggiators are present throughout most of the album, accentuated with airy guitar and funk-inspired bass. The percussion has a noticeable other-worldly feel, characterized by complex rhythms featuring tambourine and chimes.
Attempting to compose with this repertoire of sound can be overwhelming, and Yeasayer are often unsuccessful. Yeasayer attempt to build intricate soundscapes by layering their diverse collection of sounds, and the result is often cluttered yet uninteresting songs that never seem to fully materialize.
Lyrically, Fragrant World is inconsistent at best. Vocalists Chris Keating and Anand Wilder showcase their notable ability to integrate appealing melody into the music, but their unmemorable songwriting does not aid their talents. The result is lyrics that are difficult to relate to and occasionally painful to listen to.
Despite these flaws, the album contains a few clear standouts. “Henrietta” is a spectral track about immortality with infectious melody and hooks. “Folk Hero Schtick” is the most musically impressive track, flawlessly blending the eclectic mix of sounds.
If anything, Yeasayer show promise. Trying to maintain both complexity and melody is risky in music, and if their greatest flaw is their inability to evolve their busy sound beyond its initial stages, then their greatest triumph is being ambitious enough to take these risks. Fragrant World is a decent release. Although often congested and disoriented, listeners can find some solace in a few strong tracks.