bark120 · CD / DIGITAL · Barsuk Records · August 2011
The focal point of Yellow Ostrich's magnificent debut The Mistress is Alex Schaaf's tender, pleading voice. It's reedy and childlike, and on The Mistress it gets looped and layered, stretched, manipulated; it's stacked up several high and, most often, it's used as an instrument, fleshing out the empty spaces in his bare, searching songs. These songs exist within that push-and-pull, the allure of blind fantasy chased by the bitter sting of reality. Nowhere is this more apparent than in "Mary", a song that begins with optimism and encouragement but crests on a sudden, startling note of despair: "Mary, you are doing drugs don't you think we know?" Schaaf sings, crestfallen. The confrontation is followed by a crushing silence, before Schaaf's voice all six harmonizing iterations of it returns, a soothing cascade of sound. He sings only a single open syllable, but the meaning is clear: Schaaf's intention is not to judge it's to comfort.