* (out of four)
Hey, have you guys thought about death? Pretty deep, right? Like, everybody dies. And the older you get, the closer you are to dying! And the really crazy thing is that all of us are getting older every day, so we're all slowly dying all the time! Can you believe that?
No? Then, boy, is listening to this sweet new music going to be an opportunity to confront your own mortality. Not just in the figurative sense, where listening to the dull atmospheric blend of synthesizers will make you wonder if there might be more meaningful ways to spend an hour of your life; no, Yeasayer's “Fragrant World,” the oh-so-Brooklyn indie electronic outfit's third album, is literally insistent that you consider death, among other existential quandaries. Appropriately, it's kind of a bummer.
There was a time when Yeasayer made fun music: bubbly, energetic stuff like “Ambling Alp” and “2080” that hid its worldly despair behind hazy globalized influences. “Fragrant World,” though, trades in the band's former charming eclecticism for a uniform palette of plodding rhythms and somber electronic effects. Although there's a modest payoff in songs like “Henrietta” and “No Bones,” the band's attempts to infuse its professed EDM and R&B influences with darker themes mostly fall flat by missing what is fundamentally appealing about those genres: the fact that they seek to entertain.
Death, on the other hand, well … turns out it's not super chill, and neither is its soundtrack.