strange land

The Mistress was a guy in a bedroom,” says lead singer Alex Schaaf. “Strange Land is a band. In a slightly bigger room.” Considering I overlooked Alex’s debut project, I had little to go on when reading that statement. I first heard the single “Marathon Runner” off of their just released LP, Strange Land, and then I dug into the debut and was surprised that it was just one man. Schaaf is a multi-instrumentalist with a fondness for vocal loops that gave the first album a bigger than solo sound.

But now, after adding full-time bandmates in Jon Natchez and Michael Tapper, Schaaf relies less on the vocal loops and more on the strengths of others. For someone who transitioned from a one-man band to a threesome, he does an excellent job in letting his new mates stretch their legs and leave their imprint on the album. Tapper’s drumming is stellar and the percussion is the most significant change between the two albums.

And while I’m fairly certain Schaff and Tapper could have put together something good on their own, Natchez is able to add the ingredients to give the album more depth. Bringing a host of horns amongst his collection, Natchez gives the tunes the flourish to make them truly stand out.

What’s most astonishing is that Yellow Ostrich recorded a number of these complex songs live, capturing the whole track in one take. The newly formed band had ample time to play some of the songs live on tour before entering the studio (they toured in support of Barsuk’s re-release of The Mistress after signing to the label), but it’s impressive nonetheless.

I’m getting acquainted to both Yellow Ostrich albums at the same time and it’s as if I am listening to two different, albeit somewhat similar, bands. And while I really enjoy The Mistress, I don’t think I would have been as driven to see them live if I had never heard Strange Land. It’s not a matter if I want to see them – I really have to see them. I am excited to see how they translate these songs to the live setting. I have the feeling that I will be hearing a whole new edition of the songs and I’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the band.

Stream the tracks below or head over to their site to download them. You can find Yellow Ostrich at Empty Bottle in Chicago tomorrow night and at several spots in Austin. You can probably find us at their set at Home Slice Pizza on the 16th.

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Yellow Ostrich is set to release their sophomore album, Strange Land, on March 6th. This album should mark a step forward for the band. Their previous album, The Mistress, was self-produced and created by Alex Schaaf doing it all. He played every instrument on the album.

Strange Land is also self-produced, but Schaaf is joined by multi-instrumentalist Jon Natchez, drummer Michael Tapper, and engineer Beau Sorenson (Death Cab for Cutie, Sparklehorse). The end result should be a much fuller and more dramatic sound. “Marathon Runner,” the first single, sends that message very clearly.

Look for these guys on tour this Spring with Lost In The Trees and Howler and at SxSW.  You can trade your email for a download of “Marathon Runner.”

Tour Dates:
3/3 – Great Scott – Allston, MA #
3/4 – Mohawk Place – Buffalo, NY #
3/6 – Beachland Tavern – Cleveland, OH #
3/7 – The Pike Room at The Crofoot – Pontiac, MI #
3/8 – Empty Bottle – Chicago, IL #
3/9 – Der Rathskeller – Madison, WI &
3/10 – 7th St Entry – Minneapolis, MN #
3/11 – Cactus Club – Milwaukee, WI #
3/12 – The Gramophone – St. Louis, MO #
3/15-19 – SXSW – Austin, TX
3/19 – Solar Culture – Tucson, AZ
3/20 – Soda Bar – San Diego, CA
3/21 – Bootleg Theatre – Los Angeles, CA
3/23 – Bottom of the Hill – San Francisco, CA @
3/24 – The Depot at Humboldt State – Arcata, CA
3/26 – Mississippi Studios – Portland, OR %
3/27 – Media Club – Vancouver, Canada %
3/29 – Flying M Coffee – Nampa, ID %
3/30 – Kilby Court – Salt Lake City, UT %
3/31 – Hi Dive – Denver, CO %
4/2 – The Waiting Room – Omaha, NE %
4/10 – Johnny Brenda’s – Philadelphia, PA
4/11 – Black Cat Backstage – Washington, DC
4/12 – Mercury Lounge – New York, NY

# = with 1,2,3
& = with 1,2,3 and Lower Dens
@ = with Lost in the Trees
% = with Howler