Some friends of mine came into town over the past weekend for the holiday. We celebrated by getting a group together and going for brunch to a local boutique place that sells fancy tea. I ate a red bell pepper, basil and goat cheese stratta with a simple salad and imbibed rose petal-infused green tea. The place was pleasant inside, painted with muted earth tones featuring a Feng Shui floorplan. On the speakers: easy listening, an Asian Enya analogue, the archetypical soundtrack for some kind of new age weirdo’s communal breathing exercise and/or mind/body awareness rec center workshop. Afterwards, we viewed a friend’s art exhibit, an installation piece that pays homage to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” 2011 is the Year Of The Fancy Hipster Breakfast Plans, so far.
It’s moments like these that make me feel really pretentious. It’s a lot of fun, and you know it’s happening, but it’s also kind of untenable over a long period of time unless you really want to start re-assessing how much of a bourgeoisie douchebag you really want to be. And that’s kind of what it’s like listening to Yeasayer. Like eating a red bell pepper, basil and goat cheese stratta, it’s really hard to dislike all the components. But having breakfast shouldn’t make one feel so painfully self-aware.
All that said, “Ambling Alp” has all the trappings of a great indie pop single. It’s catchy, culturally familiar but yet moderately timeless and original, a little experimental, effusive, and you can fuck to it (as a commenter on the embedded YouTube so eloquently observed). When I first heard it, it built up my expectations for Odd Blood, Yeasayer’s sophomore release that dropped in 2010. I thought their first album was a little pastiche, but had enough interesting things to say for a band that was presumably just finding its sound.
The second song on the album, “Ambling Alp” occupies a well-tread “this is the radio single” position on Odd Blood’s track listing. Listening to the song out of context (and without hearing the rest of the album), you’d think Yeasayer was taking a step forward, putting its 80s-keyboard experimental pop influences in the driver’s seat, and deftly blending in the worldbeat percussive undercurrents. It ends with a great synth riff that illustrates a great hallmark of a good cut: it ends at the best part of the song.
Well, Odd Blood turned to be a bit of a letdown. But this is a listing of the best tracks of all 2010 releases, not the best 2010 releases. Also like eating a red bell pepper basil and goat cheese stratta (it was a pretty damn small portion, but it was so pretty), “Ambling Alp” leaves you wanting more.