Young People

All at Once

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Their first album for Too Pure and without guitarist Jeff Rosenburg, All at Once is also Young People's darkest, most subdued work to date. However, paring down to a duo hasn't stripped the band of any of their inherent drama; in fact, they're more soundtrack-ready than ever. They use their spare instrumentation carefully and cleverly, creating a surprisingly big sound on songs like "On the Farm" with just a distorted guitar, a few drum hits, and layers of Katie Eastburn's haunting vocals. The torchy "Dark Rainbow" and "Ride On" exemplify the even more spacious, more mysterious sound of Young People on All at Once; though there's a touch of twang in the guitars on both of these songs, most of the alt-country sound that informed their debut album and War Prayers is gone. Instead, All at Once emphasizes Eastburn and drummer Jarrett Silberman's jazz and show tune influences: "Forget"'s hypnotic drumming is jazzy and primal at the same time. Even by Young People's standards, the album is dark and brooding: "R and R" combines words from the Yaqui poem "Song of a Dead Man," an intense, looping piano melody, and vocals that seem steeped in tears to dazzling effect. The theme continues with song titles such as "Your Grave," "Reapers," and "Heads Will Roll." However, "F" adds a sparkly, wintry cheer that makes it one of All at Once's strongest tracks. "Slow Moving Storm" and "The Clock" sound like surreal show tunes, using little more than piano and vocals to string together seemingly contradictory words and melodies. At first, the album seems slightly anticlimactic and even perplexing, but upon repeated listens, All at Once shows that Young People remain fascinating -- they're one of a handful of bands that can simplify their approach and still make increasingly sophisticated music.

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