All Hour Cymbals (We Are Free)
The Brooklyn-based band Yeasayer borrows openly from pretty much everywhere on its debut album—world music (the first single, “2080,” is based on West African rock) and acts that appropriated world music (“Wait for the Wintertime” is essentially a reworking of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” and “Sunrise” sounds like mid-1980s Peter Gabriel), and the high-pitched, largely unintelligible collective vocals aren’t much different from those of contemporary bands like TV on the Radio and Arcade Fire. Even snippets of Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk show up on “No Need to Worry” and “Wait for the Summer.”
As derivative as the individual pieces are, though, All Hour Cymbals ends up as a distinctive and surprisingly realized work. The band’s got big ideas, marked in part by crusty new-hippie mysticism and a tuned-out transcendental spirituality, but it’s also come up with an engaging and accomplished disc. For all their epic scope, the songs are short—the two longest songs are five and a half minutes each—and both the performances and production are sharp. Yeasayer’s ambitions could quickly turn silly, but its discipline wins out.