Imagine '80s R&B Miami-bass dance crooner Stevie B. taking a bath with Grizzly Bear while listening to Violator on a battery-powered boom box, and you get an idea of Yeasayer's groove. Based in hot-spot Brooklyn, Yeasayer embrace dance-pop beats and that yelping, plaintive falsetto style singing à la Depeche Mode's Martin Gore that made me quiver as a teen without the slightest hint of irony. Some might call their style empty. Some might call it something you can bounce to in a slick hipster club. Some might call it something to be dropped into the nearest trashcan, next to scratched singles of Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up."
But if anything, Odd Blood can be held up as a prime specimen of the digital and live instrumentation possibilities enabled by 21st-century technology. Officially leaked on the internet last fall, the album's exuberant, electro-pop first single sets the stage for the bubbly, beat-infused energy that informs most of their newer songs. Driven by the soaring yelps of multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Anand Wilder, "Ambling Alps" is anthemic and rousing. Conversely, "Madder Rose" kicks off with a melancholy chorus of voices, rising to the sky, and mixes a nice out-for-blood darkness with shimmering bass lines and electronic bells.
Admittedly, Yeasayer can be an acquired taste. The band's tagline is "Enya with bounce," and on songs like "I Remember," with baldly sincere lyrics concerned with love and longing and making love on airplanes, their electronic bells backed by watery quavering keyboards do conjure a certain quality similar to the Celtic chanteuse. Even more caution: a boy-band strain runs through songs like "O.N.E.," which boasts a bumping bass groove punctuated by slick synth flourishes. Justin Timberlake fans may find themselves flashing back to the days of learning to kiss on their 'N Sync pillows when hearing the lovelorn harmonies of "Love Me Girl," which declares "Don't give up on me / And I won't give up on you / I gotta wait for the baby," followed by the sampled squawks of jungle birds.
In a recent interview on JamBase.com, Wilder explains the name "odd blood" as a sci-fi term, something futuristic, "not natural blood, but something strange." That diverse strangeness hits the Bay Area when Yeasayer play on Saturday, April 17, at the Fillmore. 1805 Geary Blvd., San Francisco. 9pm. $20. 415.346.6000.