by Josh Taylor
The gulf has been plagued by some tragedies in the recent past. First Katrina and now the biggest oil spill in history. Yikes. Now that I think about it, I haven’t heard of very many bands coming out of the area either. I don’t blame them; it must be tough to make music when you have other things on your mind.
Then again, there are bands like Youth Sounds, born from a devastated New Orleans and a gulf that is becoming increasingly oily. Youth Sounds are a mosaic of several now-defunct bands. The band is also a family affair, fronted by siblings (brother and sister), so you’ll find opposing influences fused together in a wordless compromise that only siblings understand.
Usually it takes band’s years to develop their style and decide on a direction, but with Youth Sounds, everything appears to be inherent. It’s almost as if, right after Katrina, the band began cooking up song ideas and making artistic decisions so that the first chance they got, they could lay everything out. Well, as of now, the band has completed three tracks.
Those tracks – “As Strangers Would,” “Smoke and Mirrors” and “What Is It Like” – went on to be The Bit Parts EP and display the band’s serene tranquility and downplayed driving house beats. The production is modestly polished — crisp but not too shiny. All three are striking for their cohesiveness and inventive songwriting. The band respects traditional song forms and includes instrumental dynamics at the appropriate point in their songs to make their choruses a bit grander and the bridges exciting.
“As Strangers Would,” the first track off the EP, begins with an ominous synth landing and then suddenly plunges into the driving beat the will propel the whole track forward, despite the whisper-y vocals that characterize the band’s DIY sound. The chorus is brief, and come to think of it, so are the verses, but they adequately explain the meaning of the song: two people drifting apart to the point of becoming strangers. The first time I heard Youth Sounds’ “As Strangers Would,” I thought of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps”; beautiful, yet a tad bittersweet.
The next and most laid back song on the EP is “Smoke and Mirrors”, with a soothing acoustic guitar intro that carries throughout the pensive and regret-filled track. Mid-song, the heavy drum beats come back into the mix and keep the song from getting too sleepy. The melodies are drawn out and mellow in the best sense of the word. Erika’s Mejia injects her vocals with a detached demeanor, complimenting the song’s reflective tone with extraordinary prowess.
The last song is “What Is It Like”, and even though the subtle melodies remain, the music is incredibly buoyant. The background melodies push the drums into the background more than the other two songs, where the beats dominate in the foreground. The lyrics are sad, but the mood of the song isn’t, lending an interesting irony to the consummate final product.
All three songs on the EP are equally attention-worthy. Of course with only three songs, there isn’t much room for filler either. The band is able to define and vary their sound a bit in those three easy-to-digest songs, all of which are lyrically engaging and striking with a theme of yearning extending throughout. When it comes to choosing an exact genre, some like indie, twee, shoegaze, downtempo, ambient are worthy candidates. But Youth Sounds will no doubt appeal to fans of other genres as well for their stylish thoughtfulness.
I hope that Youth Sounds goes on to build more momentum and is able to take their ideas and record them with success. I have a feeling that this band has more up their sleeve and are just waiting for the opportunity to create. On the other hand, maybe the brother and sister are a couple of perfectionists and are carefully crafting something special. All I know is that after three songs, I’m hooked and I’d like more. So to Youth Sounds: Keep it coming, and tell the other band’s in the gulf to get it together. You guys are making them look bad. If you can create something so utterly wonderful in times like these, I’m sure they can too.
RIYL: Georgie James, The 1900s, Metric, Office, The Owls, The Eames Era, Headlights, Mates of State, The Broken West, Great Northern, Viva Voce, The Little Ones, The Essex Green, Imperial Teen, Dressy Bessy