So you’ve watched my interview with the band, and read my review of their record release show. Now it’s time to find out how I feel about Young Jesus’ new album, Home. Judging by my placing them on the list of bands to watch in 2012, you could probably guess that I enjoyed it a good deal. You’d be right, but let me tell you why.
Listening to Home, your enjoyment of Young Jesus really comes down to how much you like music that crosses genres. Some people like progressive rock, some like shoegaze, and others like folk (there’s probably a genre I’m missing somewhere in there). Young Jesus doesn’t care what genre you like, they just want to make music that sounds good to them. To that point, the band doesn’t think about style when they write their songs, they just write. If it sounds like something with potential, they go with it and never look back. That’s why a song as radio-friendly as the post-pop-punk rocker “Falling For You” can exist on the same record as the more industrial-sounding “Not Quite Dead.”
The album’s opening number, “Family And Friends,” is a slow building rocker that kicks off one of the major motifs of the record. The band credit The National as one of their major influences, and that is apparent from the very beginning. But it’s unfair of me to say that just because John Rossiter has a voice full of bass he’s trying to sound like Matt Berninger. As the song goes on, you realize that Peter Martin’s drum fills seem to be cribbed from “Fake Empire” as well, so that doesn’t help. But that goes against a point I’ve made as recently as yesterday: Everyone sounds like someone. I don’t remember the last band I heard and thought it was wholly original (probably one of the Radiohead records). What sticks out to me here is that Young Jesus is more than happy to stand before you and say “Yes. We like The National. If you don’t like that then don’t listen to us.” (Just as a reminder, Young Jesus never actually said that, so don’t think that they don’t want you to listen to their record, they do.)
The second song, “David,” kicks off another short-lived motif, and one that I find very telling about the songwriting. I’m assuming that this one and the following tune, “Falling For You” were written by the same member of the band. The former song includes the line, “I’m not saying that I’m the man to write you a letter” while the latter contains the line, “I’m not saying I’m the man for you.” There’s a vulnerability in the voice of these two songs that isn’t really apparent on the rest of the album, and I think that it could use some more of it. Not that the album is absent of emotion or feeling on the other tracks, it just isn’t laid as bare as it is on these two.
Musically, I can’t say I have any issues with Home. Everything from Rossiter’s vocals to Shawn Nystrand’s bass and backing vox sound great to me. I continue to be amazed at just how polished up and coming bands sound on their debut albums. Young Jesus was equally tight on stage, and I think a lot of that has to do with their closeness away from the music. When I interviewed them, they seemed like a pretty tight-knit group. One that feels safe and comfortable enough to be criticized without taking it personally. When a band is rehearsing or writing, things come up where you write something that sucks or come up with a riff that just isn’t working, and it’s good to know the same people giving you reasons why you’re wrong are also the people who stand by you when you’re right.
I purposely only mentioned the first three songs here because I don’t want to spoil anything beyond that for you. The album comes out tomorrow, and you should most definitely check it out. Home does take some darker turns here and there, but for the most part I think it has an optimistic message beneath the angsty guitars and screaming.