The scent of ‘Fragrant World’ fails to linger

Published 4:09 pm Saturday, August 25, 2012

Yeasayer’s “Fragrant World” has plenty of pleasing aromas, but they never quite bond together.

On their third album, “Fragrant World,” the psychedelic rockers lean more on pop and R’N’B influence, but their latest songs are like a boat adrift in a sea of electronic effects, as the group ramps up the experimentation.

Granted, that’s never been lacking. Yeasayer started with a bang with 2007’s “All Hour Cymbals.” After the release of that enticing debut, the group described their sound as “Middle Eastern-psych-snap-gospel.”

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Yeasayer hasn’t tried to re-create the early days, as they’ve molded and altered their style.

The changes aren’t big, but they’re sure to alienate some fans (something band members don’t sound too concerned about in interviews).

The group’s second album in 2010 produced what’s probably its most well-known song, “Ambling Alp,” but as a whole, the album wasn’t as distinctive.

Enter “Fragrant World.”

On their third album, Yeasayer leaves plenty of breadcrumbs to hint at the band’s vast potential.

“Henrietta,” the latest single, closes with a magnetic ending with singer Chris Keating repeating the words “Oh Henrietta, we can live on forever.”

“Longevity,” another single, produces what sounds like a slow-motion dance song. “Blue Paper” picks up the tempo, and “Devil in the Deed” turns to a heavier sound through brute electronics.

Despite many noteworthy and memorable moments, each song — like the entire album — never meshes together.

Each rhythm, each synthesizer squeal, each electronic howl and pop feels planned and over calculated.

The sounds remain disembodied from the soul of the album. Part of it is that some of the squelching electronics feel forced — or perhaps too planned.

Even though it’s a complex, instrument-heavy album, “All Hour Cymbals” is sparse compared to “Fragrant World.”

These new songs are collected experimentations in sounds, but the host of electronic instruments blending into something jagged and impersonal. The songs feel steely, cold and devoid of emotion. The electronics and even a fair amount of auto-tuned and manipulated vocals further the machine-like production of this album.

Where “All Hour Cymbals” added backup vocals, “Fragrant World” fills in the spaces — often unnecessarily — with another shimmer or wisp of noise.

Even “Henrietta” — perhaps the most enticing song on the album — takes a mediocre two minutes before it reaches the magnetic closing.

“Fragrant World” proves it takes more than positive pieces and inventive parts to make a successful album.