by Andrew Garrison
Earlier this month I wrote about two of the songs on Yellow Ostrich’s sophomore release, Cosmos. After hearing the two songs that they had put out on soundcloud I said that February 25th is a day that I will have circled on my calendar. Well, the day has come, and Yellow Ostrich did not disappoint. Cosmos is a ten song LP, reportedly inspired by the PBS series that shares the same name. With that in mind we get a solid understanding of the depth and direction of this absolutely excellent album.
Cosmos kicks things off with a vast and spacious track, “Terrors”. While simple and open initially the chorus comes in with a strong guitar line and then fads back with a snare bit the trods along. The changing of tempos and instruments utilized make “Terrors” a vibrant and dynamically plunging track. “Neon Fists” stays closer to home to the Cosmos motif, coming across much softer and slower. The lyrics and vocals have a depth to them that conveys a hearty amount of emotion. “Shades” is for lack of a better term, downright rad. We have guitars veering every which way, that sends the song on a collision course at the intersection of Awesome and Mind-Blowing. “My Moons” scales things back again with a deconstructed sound that is again spacious and has a hint of remorse and self-awareness. Towards the back end of “My Moons” just when you thought you were getting comfortable with their calculated lull, we have an up-tempo bit that eases, yet rocks you out of it. “You Are The Stars” has what is probably the most futuristic sound to it, while being light and funky at the same time. Again, we have a fairly drastic change towards the end of this song, with more a more aggressive clashing of guitars and percussions. “In the Dark” ‘s most notable aspect comes with its repeated line, “I can’t wait for you to see it all.” The sense of foreshadowing and hint of a sort of discovery is conveyed by the tone of the song as well. Listening to “In the Dark” gives you some eerie feeling of omniscience. “Any Wonder” has a very defined drum bit that keeps the song moving along an even pace, prodding and probing its way into some sort of great unknown, as referenced in the lyrics. As the name may infer, “How Do You Do It” is an inquisitive song, with some aspects of a neu-wave/afro-world sound to it. To accent some of the more abstract sounds, we have things anchored with a very cool wailing guitar line, strong vocals and percussions that ultimately build themselves into crash. “Things Are Falling” is again slower and softer, leading off with a gentle guitar plucking. Low, single bass lines initially tether this song closer to earth more so than some earlier tracks, while still allowing room for the spaciousness that this album is wrought with. About halfway through, we get some downright excellent musicianship by all parties involved, eventually letting us drift further and further into space. We then float right into the voluminous last track, “Don’t Be Afraid”. Even-keeled and steady, we wind down in a very simple manner. Leaving us, ultimately, still floating.
I think one of the most remarkable things about this album is how well the notion of cosmos truly encapsulates the entity of the album. In each track you can see some signature themes, such as the openness, deconstructed nature, excellent often divergent guitars and depth in vocals. However, each track is tweaked is just such a way to give each song its own realm, allowing us to wander through. One critique could be that is at times too spacious, a perhaps even a little over zealous. I choose to think more so, that this album does not need a finite direction. It provides the opportunity to explore, and prods itself along in just the right direction. Maybe I am being more forgiving because Yellow Ostrich has Wisconsin roots, or because the musicianship is just outstanding. The album is complex in its simplicity. Or perhaps simple in its complexity. I am not totally sure, but what I am sure of is that Cosmos is a tremendous work of music, as intriguing and inquisitive as it is just plain awesome.