Yellow Ostrich, Cosmos

Ryan Reed

By Ryan Reed

on 02.25.14 in Reviews

With their latest LP, Cosmos, indie-rockers Yellow Ostrich have made their space-rock album, but mostly in a thematic sense: Inspired by astronomer Carl Sagan’s 1980 PBS series, these prolific Brooklynites wrestle with life’s unsolvable mysteries, gazing in awe at the night sky for answers.

Their space-rock album, in a thematic sense

Here’s the strange part: Instead of chasing the expansive sonic blueprint of, say, Pink Floyd or Gong, Yellow Ostrich have actually pared back their guitar-heavy style, with frontman Alex Schaaf exploring his more reflective side over trance-y riffs and minimal programmed percussion. This simplicity emphasizes Schaaf’s star-gazing imagery (“I see you flying in a burning missile,” he sings on the tense piano-rocker “Shades”), though quietly charming tracks like “My Moons” and “You Are the Stars” feel strangely unresolved — begging for an epic musical climax to match their grand concepts. The most thrilling moments on Cosmos take the opposite approach — like opener “Terrors,” which builds into a towering guitar anthem, or the existential wrecking-ball “How Do You Do It?”, in which Schaaf’s painful questions (“How do you sleep at night when you know you’re gonna die?”) are answered by black-hole guitar squalls.