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Yeasayer – Good Evening, Washington D.C

"Good Evening, Washington D.C."

Yeasayer – Good Evening, Washington D.C
21 November 2013, 13:30 Written by Sofie Jenkinson

Washington DC: where battles lines are drawn. Where tiny shifts pepper every single second of the day and night, as hulking white stone buildings and green-trimmed hills try to define its place. But there’s more.

Tucked away in an unassuming pile of bricks just over a year ago Yeasayer’s Fragrant World tour packed out back-to-back November nights. Standout moments from the two voracious shows at the 9:30 Club are carved into the black wax of Good Evening, Washington D.C, a double LP on expertly abstract form.

There is, as ever, a certain thoughtfulness in this particular package of songs – in every sound picked out. A brawl in equal parts hopeful and conscientious.

Bundled just inside is a pamphlet set on flimsy hymn sheet paper, the sort that the political classes used to educate the masses and on which great ‘thinkers’ made their mark. Disguised as meat for the likes of those in hefty buildings atop hills, this makeshift almanac by artist Christopher Kline offers cliff notes on the band’s last studio album. Held in the sleeve like an artefact in an exhibition, existing there only through a subjective choice, for speculation. Use or ornament? The off-beat snippets and oddly quantifiable portions of life ensure that the inquisitive survive.

“In a way, it’s very fitting. Abstract and without backstory…” writes Kline with words that match this cluster of songs more than any of the band’s fully formed studio projects. This is an album of colour washes, of wild sounds clinging to thick air, of swells rumbling through. It’s the intangibles with this band – not a clutch of lyrics yelled back across a rolling sea of raised palms but merely a feeling, a gloss on how to be.

The nights ooze with a steady undercurrent, flitting from the boredom of consistence to the reassurance of harmony. “Henrietta” swirls yet ripples break the calming pool and leave the space to plunge. The sound spills over into Kilne’s notes about Henrietta Lacks, a woman whose cancer cells became a cure, sitting immortal in a lab as chorus lines float on.

On the other side of the same coin “Regan’s Skeleton” feels like a more concerted effort at something bigger, covered in a straining swagger that doesn’t quite fit – but is brought back to a baseline of swelling mantras with “Madder Red”, notably of earlier origin.

“Good Evening” sees the band’s sense of themselves coloured a slightly different shade, still faded and dog-eared but with much more fun laced through the pluck and the sway of the music bouncing off brick walls and a mass of faces, rather than the rugs and padded microphones of deliberate assembly.

While hefty tracks, the likes of “Ambling Alp” and “O.N.E” still crack flags as they beat down, it’s in the details where you find the best of Yeasayer. This record swells and crashes but intricate touches cover the ground where clarity is lost. Just like the real live thing, Good Evening… is an adventure, not a given – a way of hearing again what you thought you knew.

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