‘Tuned In’ review: Yeah Yeah Yeahs take flight on ‘Mosquito’

In this photo taken Wednesday, March 13, 2013, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs perform during the NPR music showcase at Stubb's during SXSW 2013 in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Laura Skelding)

In this photo taken Wednesday, March 13, 2013, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs perform during the NPR music showcase at Stubb's during SXSW 2013 in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Laura Skelding)

'Mosquito' by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

"Mosquito" by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

“Mosquito” is the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ most consistent release to date, though it’s also one of the hardest to define and one of the trio’s least mainstream-accessible albums.

Unlike 2009’s “It’s Blitz!” and 2006’s “Show Your Bones,” which were fractured and uneven, albeit fitfully brilliant, “Mosquito” is cohesive apart from the goofy alien-themed novelty song “Area 52.” However, it also doesn’t pack much in the way of potential singles or sing-along hooks of the rock or dance variety.

Instead, “Mosquito” is a pensive concoction, soulful and often somber, reflective and seemingly sincere.

Despite working with a handful of collaborators and guests, the group appears to retreat into an isolated, atmospheric fantasyland where the dark meets the sweet and rock and electronica effortlessly intermingle.

It’s an absorbing world marked by textures, from the gospel choir that lifts “Sacrilege” out of its brooding funk to the genius use of a train-on-tracks rhythm to guide the eerie “Subway.” In addition, a reggae lilt caresses the resonance of “Under the Earth,” a steady hum underscores the crackling electric playground of “Buried Alive” (featuring rap by Dr. Octagon), and the romantic “Always” sweeps into blissful limbo.

As usual, vocalist Karen O is the captivating centerpiece, arching her distinctive, full-bodied voice into the stratosphere on “These Paths” while employing a primal tone for the edgy title track and cool sensuality for the brimming-with-art-rock-energy “Slave.” And as usual, she can’t help evoking her Gothic predecessor Siouxsie Sioux, be it in the ultra-sleek performance of “Slave” or the gorgeously disarming, straightforward delivery of “Wedding Song” that echoes Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “The Last Beat of My Heart.”

Thanks to its uncharacteristic subtleties and emphasis on ambience over conventional structure, “Mosquito” may not generate as much as buzz as it deserves. Yet regardless of its success, it’s the most rewarding release overall in the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ discography.

Rating: 4 stars (out of five)

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