Having just announced an anthology of the last decade of songwriting, Alex Schaaf is ready to return to his Yellow Ostrich moniker. Today we get to listen to “Julia,” a song about the difficulties of maintaining all sorts of relationships, romantic and otherwise…and trying to reason with those challenges. Musically, I was really drawn to his vocal approach on the song at first; there was something mathematical about it, almost like Rob Crow in some of the early Pinback work (seriously, this sounds like beautiful slowcore Finback!). That said, the song wouldn’t be successful if there weren’t careful little touches throughout the tune that really emphasize the attention to detail from the participants on the recordings; I’m all for building layer upon layer, just like Schaaf and company have done here. Soft, the new LP, is out on April 24rd via Barsuk Records.
Though five full albums into their career, it seems like Yellow Ostrich are still a bit under the radar, or perhaps just my radar. Regardless of their notoriety, the band is currently a four-piece outfit that hails from Brooklyn, of all places. What started as the solo project of lead vocalist and guitarist, Alex Schaaf, has blossomed into the group effort that produces guitar focal indie rock, which is quite clearly found on Cosmos.
The main difference on Cosmos, oddly enough, is that the balance between electronic elements and electric guitar have been switched for the most part from what we came to know on earlier efforts such as on the Ghost EP. Heavy guitar is the central element, and even on the opening track, which isn’t the most enticing number that Yellow Ostrich have put out, you can see this shift. “Terrors” seems simplistic for the group, relying on the hardness of the guitar sound to carry the number. Though different, it provides listeners with the notion that a different kind of sound can be expected, even if it isn’t exactly what the first song entails.
And if the opening track is a lacking in the intricacy that this ban has thus established, then “Neon Fists,” directly after, offers a rebuttal to everything that I just described in the last paragraph. Suddenly the band is equal parts guitar, equal parts electronic aspects. These two sounds seem to play off each other, each swirling around the other until they have layered to create a cosmic soundscape for Schaaf’s high-pitched nasal vocals to sit lightly on top, bouncing around. Another track that seems to flip around the notion of guitar heavy centricity at first is “How Do You Do It,” which picks up with a drum machine beat and slight clicks and pops. Schaaf comes in with heavyset lyrics, contemplating the nature of the normalcy of day-to-day life. He poses us the question with some power chords of guitar. Here is juxtaposition that I wish was more prevalent on Cosmos: the detailed lyrics and the balance between delicate and harsh seem to blend effortlessly, giving this track real traction and intrigue.
Though there are some good tracks to this album, all in all it seems that it is lacking in the grand vastness that the title might imply. I find myself enjoying a fair amount of numbers, but missing something overall. You might disagree with this sentiment—and at 34 minutes in length, you can see for yourself. Have a listen.
Yellow Ostrich is primarily the work of Alex Schaaf, but he’s just trying to get by with a little help from his friends, and a little bit of help from you. If you’re into low-end bedroom recordings, in the manner of folk music, you’re going to have to take a listen to his stuff over on his BANDCAMP page, where you can download lots of his tracks for a price of your choosing. He’s just put up The Mistress, and there are some great finds all over the place there, including the below track, which I hope you enjoy.[audio:https://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Yellow-Ostrich-The-Mistress-04-Hold-On.mp3]
Download: Yellow Ostrich – Hold On [MP3]