Aberfeldy's debut album is the kind of record that warms your heart to a fever pitch each time you spin it. The kind of record that you will want for all your friends because you can't imagine anyone you love not owning it. The kind of record that is really difficult to review because all you want to do is type "buy this record, you will love it" over and over again until security comes around and escorts you from the building. Aberfeldy is yet another amazing band from Scotland to seemingly come out of nowhere and drop an incredible sunburst on a cloudy indie pop scene. You can save the Belle & Sebastian comparison for someone else though, because they sound nothing like each other musically. They do possess the same magical, easy charm of Belle & Sebastian at their best or of Nick Drake at his cheeriest, as well as the same ramshackle charm that Papas Fritas and the Pastels possess, and the same attention to arrangement and feel that people like the Kinks or Van Dyke Parks brought to their songs, only without the same budget. Indeed, the record is a perfect blend of song and sound and rates right up with the best work of any of these artists. Recorded around one microphone, Young Forever is impossibly warm and inviting. The songs sound like they are being sung right in the middle of your living room, filling every nook with sunlight and happiness. The songs and voice of Riley Briggs are the main focus of the record as he writes very wry and witty (and occasionally heartbreaking) tunes and delivers them in an artless but affecting style that veers from the fragile whine of a "Friend Like You" to the aching whisper of "What You Do." He is backed by a remarkably subtle and dynamic band consisting of restrained bass and drums, toy-town pianos and synths, fiddles, mandolins, and organ, not to mention glockenspiel. No fewer than three of the five bandmembers are credited with glockenspiel, and that instrument's use gives the record a child-like sense of fun and sparkle. Apart from Briggs, the best part of the record is Ruth Barrie's and Sarah McFadyen's vocals. Whether cooing behind Briggs on the dramatic "Surly Girl," laying down incredibly sweet harmonies on "Slow Me Down," or doing funny voices on the goofy "Heliopolis by Night," these two are the band's secret weapon. Without them the record may have stalled at very good and not reached the stratospheric heights that it does. Like the best albums, it hits a wide range of emotions and styles ranging from the bouncy indie pop of "A Friend Like You" and "Vegetarian Restaurant" to the restrained near country-rock of "Slow Me Down," the soft rock of the very Fleetwood Mac-ian "Love Is an Arrow," the bubbling indie rock of "Something I Must Tell You," and the tender neo-folk meets the toy-town orchestra sound of "Tie One On." Standing above all these small-scale classics is the amazing "Summer's Gone," which is a dazzling blend of styles that should never meet, like reggae (the beat), Celtic folk (the fiddles), loungey lo-fi (the cheap drum machine and synths), and sunshine pop (the amazing melody that lifts the chorus like a Eastern Bloc power lifter). Yet meet they do and it is cute, funny, and will have you squeezing out tears of joy. Unless you don't have a heart, that is. Or if you don't hear it. Young Forever is the kind of record that far too often slips under the radar and right through the cracks, becoming a cult treasure. That is a fate this record should avoid because it is the kind of record that people would really connect with if they only had the chance to hear it. There is no reason these kids couldn't become the next Norah Jones. Or the next Modest Mouse. Someone has to be, after all. Get in on the ground floor and help start the groundswell of support this record and Aberfeldy truly deserve. It holds all the magic, charm, heart, and beauty that make for the best pop, both indie and major-label. Tell all your friends.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra