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Everybody say Yeasayer 

2010's most blogged-about band on Kanye, Brooklyn and Afro-pop

Let's begin with a few misconceptions about Yeasayer, a band that once described its music as "Middle Eastern-psych-snap-gospel" and was recently named by Hype Machine as the No. 1 most-blogged artist of 2010. (Take that, Gaga.)

First of all, the Brooklyn band is not anti-Kanye, even if guitarist Anand Wilder did make waves last November with a blog post that criticized the artist for retracting his Katrina-era claim that "George Bush doesn't care about black people."

While Wilder stops short of issuing his own apology, he's quick to express an appreciation for Kanye's overall accomplishments: "I think Kanye is a really talented, awesome producer, songwriter, you know, everything. And he's also this great personality who can be very kind of confrontational. So it just seemed kind of pathetic to me for him to be backing down to these suits! You can call Bush a racist. Who cares?"

And then there's the so-called Brooklyn scene, where bands like MGMT and Gang Gang Dance are drawing the kind of attention critics once lavished on Seattle's grunge movement. Thing is, Wilder points out, virtually no Brooklyn scenesters actually hail from Brooklyn, himself included.

"It's just Disneyland, you know?" says the Baltimore transplant of his adopted home. "I think that 20 years from now, there will be that second generation of Williamsburg scenesters whose parents raised them here, and they'll want to make music or films or whatever. And they're gonna be able to say, "Yup, Bedford Avenue, born and raised!"

Which brings us to one final misconception, that Yeasayer and their Brooklyn Heights pals Vampire Weekend are musically joined at the hip.

Granted, Wilder's band started out with the same influences that permeated Vampire Weekend's debut, a faux-African indie-pop album which managed to make Paul Simon's Graceland sound like an indigenous field recording. Was Wilder ever worried his band would start wearing cardigan sweaters and posing in sailboats, like the prepped-out act they're often compared to?

"No, that was never our shtick," says Wilder, whose tastes run more toward camouflage and tie-dye. "It always seemed like they were going for the Afro-pop thing a little harder than us."

Rather than embrace Thomas Mapfumo's Afro-pop recordings, the group's sophmore album, Odd Blood, experiments with vintage synths. "We were trying to eliminate all world music influences," says Wilder, who's lately taken to sampling his own instruments, including the cello he grew up playing.

"As much as you can tweak out a preset, it's still always gonna be: Oh, that's that sound from Cyndi Lauper's She's So Unusual, you know? So we're trying to take it to the next level, where every sound is unique and weird."

bill@csindy.com

  • 2010's most blogged-about band on Kanye, Brooklyn and Afro-pop

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