The Depreciation Guild's second album stands as proof positive that the band is much more than just a Pains of Being Pure at Heart side project. While the video game electronics and fuzz-pedals-on-11 sound of their 2007 debut album had plenty of charm, Spirit Youth shows that the Guild's approach has grown by leaps and bounds since then. If they're still using actual Nintendo technology to generate beats and synth riffs, it sure doesn't sound like it. The sonic palette here is immeasurably fuller and richer than that of In Her Gentle Jaws; the shoegazer-redux guitar layers are carefully woven into the fabric of the tracks, not just plopped down "as is" for better or worse, and the vocals -- while still soaked in a tubful of reverb for maximum ambience -- have their own place in the mix instead of being buried under the Super Mario bleeps and bloops and Jesus and Mary Chain-took-my-lunch-money guitars. But the most striking development of all on Spirit Youth is the songwriting. On Gentle Jaws, the song structures themselves tended to give way to the texture and mood of the tracks, but this time around the shoe is on the other foot. While there's still a surfeit of dreamy, ambient atmosphere here, this album seems to place its highest priority on the songs, putting them squarely at the center of all the shimmering tones. Pretty much every track on Spirit Youth sports a bewitching melody that makes perfect use of the hypnotic swirl of guitars and electronics, moving in an elegant arc as it unfolds. You can hear it in the delivery, too, with nuanced vocals that seem to say "Hey, after all the trouble we went to in writing these tunes, we're damn well gonna give ‘em their due." Of course, if you don't feel like following the contours of the songs that closely, you can still just bliss out to the heavenly vibes pouring out of every minute of this lovely record.
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AllMusic Review by James Allen