On their 2007 debut album All Hour Cymbals, Brooklyn-based experimental rock band Yeasayer carefully mastered the art of creating an entire universe over the course of a few short songs. Four albums later, Amen and Goodbye expands upon that same dazzling universe in a way that feels both hauntingly familiar and gloriously brand-new. Amen & Goodbye drips with twangy guitar, luscious synth, glossy woodwinds, explosive percussion, and, in interlude Child Prodigy, harpsichord. It spoon-feeds the listener glossy psych worldbeat that feels equal parts spiritual and unholy. While the album edges with greater pop sensibilities than its predecessor, 2012’s Fragrant World, even its most accessible tracks – namely “Silly Me” and “I Am Chemistry” – tremble with an underbelly of strangeness. “I Am Chemistry”, the album’s first single and standout track, challenges the listener by cleverly switching between Bollywood-inspired verses, intricate electronic instrumentals, and a spectral children’s choir. The resulting product is haunting, poignant, confusing, and deliciously catchy (without being cheesy). By all means, it is the perfect pop song.
To describe the sound of Amen & Goodbye in too much detail is to strip it of its greatest asset: its unpredictability. What I did not expect with this album were the lullabies on its B-side, particularly “Uma”, singer Anand Wilder’s tender reflection on the uncertainties and intensity of parenthood. However, perhaps the greatest surprise of the record was the call-and-response duet “Half Asleep” featuring Suzzy Roche, whose honeyed voice seamlessly complements Anand’s bravado. Lyrically, the track – and album as a whole – is razor-sharp and deeply inquisitive. “What was the point of being adored?” asks the female vocalist in “Half Asleep”. To that, Anand struggles to respond.
2016 has been an especially strange year, and I’m not sure I would have made it through without Yeasayer’s Amen & Goodbye in my back pocket. This album was there for me during every hesitant step of 2016 and helped me to continue onward. Again, it’s difficult to put Amen & Goodbye into words without threatening to compromise the beauty of the universe it creates. But once you’ve entered that universe, words really aren’t necessary.