Young People

Young People

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A striking first album, Young People introduces the group's unique blend of lilting, traditional-sounding melodies, experimental instrumentation, and Katie Eastburn's gorgeously flawed vocals. Shades of Palace, the Dirty Three, Cat Power, and the Velvet Underground haunt the band's music, but it still sounds remarkably fresh and timeless at once -- call it avant Americana. The spare, simple beauty of songs like "Ron Jeremy" (named for, but not about, the famed adult movie star) and "Repent" is both unusual and extremely affecting; Young People are among a few bands with experimental leanings that can also pack an emotional wallop. A large part of this impact comes from Eastburn, a singer whose limitations open up a realm of expressive possibilities. The way her voice cracks when she sings "We work so hard to survive" on "The Dishwashing Song" conjures up Dust Bowl-like images of strength and poignancy; she attains an ice-water purity on "Going" and a warm, aching sensuality on "Pier," a song whose spine-tingling beauty lies in the fact that it sounds so close to falling apart. This volatility reaches a peak on "Collection," where Eastburn laments "I wish my mind could be sharper/Instead of duller" before the song takes off at a gallop that the band can barely maintain. A soulful, spiritual feel infuses Young People, particularly on "Death Don't Have No Mercy," a traditional lament with a relentless, martial beat, and the hymnal "Stay Sweet," one of the album's gentler, more reassuring moments. With its sepia tones and wide-open, prairie earnestness, it's hard to believe this album was made in Los Angeles, but in a way that adds to its timeless feel. A beautiful but occasionally difficult debut, Young People isn't for everyone, but that just makes it a little more special if you do like it.

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