Album Review: Yellow Ostrich – Cosmos
Before Yellow Ostrich got together to start working on any new material, Alex Schaaf spent as much time as he could studying up on some astronomers, particularly Carl Sagan and Frank Drake. While Schaaf spent his time exploring the galaxy, drummer Michael Tapper sailed from Mexico to Hawaii, spending nearly a month at sea. The result of this journey, and possibly some studying of the newest Local Natives album, the guys came back together and recorded Cosmos, named for Sagan’s 1980 PBS series.
Cosmos is a beautiful peek into the journeys taken by both Schaaf and Tapper. The opening track, “Terrors” begins with a whining guitar underneath Schaaf’s smooth vocals. A pulsating beep picks up helping to countdown the seconds before the track takes off with heavy drums and textured guitars and bass. “Neon Fists” draws inspiration from In Rainbows era Radiohead. There’s so much emotion in Schaaf’s vocals as he pleads during the chorus “Tell me you’re in control / Tell me you got my back / Tell me you’re on a roll / Tell me you’ll never let up / Tell me I fucked it up / But you can make it better / Tell me you’re on a roll / Tell me you got my answer / Say it”.
“Shades” starts out with more Radiohead inspired samples before buzzing guitars and a driving bass line take over. Mixing the psych-rock sounds of outfits like Tame Impala with Radiohead helps Yellow Ostrich to make music that is completely their own. The aptly titled “You Are The Stars” lifts the listener off into the galaxy that Schaaf spent so much time and energy exploring before making the record. On the surface, it may seem like a simple song, but once you truly dive in and listen to all the intricately layered guitars, drums, bass, and electronic samples you see just how perfectly woven the song is. The album closes out with the soft, hymn like “Don’t Be Afraid”. “But outside these walls / A quiet voice calls / Don’t be afraid” Schaaf urges his listeners gently. Really a perfect sentiment to end Cosmos with.
Cosmos is a perfect journey through a world meticulously crafted by Yellow Ostrich. “Something I really like about the Carl Sagan way of thinking is how it’s a very unironic and sincere amazement at how the world works,” says Schaaf. “It’s one thing to be reading all these books and watching all these movies in a very small room, or—as Michael did—to go out and live under the stars for a while. But trying to inject that pure amazement into day-to-day living in a big city is something completely different.” I think Schaaf and co. definitely succeeded here.