By 2011, Krist Krueger had long since left the state of life described in the album title, Youth, from Southerly, but Youth shows that he and his band still had a sense of what that meant in a familiar but listenable rock context: yearning, self-consciously epic, quietly reflective, the whole nine yards. So if Southerly has ultimately been a band that re-establishes and thrives in a certain familiar context that has coalesced around them over the years -- as groups like the Arcade Fire, the Decemberists, and the Flaming Lips have found their orchestrations and their feedback to be equal parts of the whole -- there's still something to like in their work, maybe just because Krueger's never tried to be a full-on arena act in favor of his own comparatively restrained vision. When he croons the title song's word in the chorus over a bed of drowned piano and rhythmic feedback shading, it's as much benediction as celebration, something that both acknowledges and leaves behind. There's a stretch of songs in the middle that end up invoking not so much youth-as-a-concept but where it went when rock "grew up," a feeling on songs like "Her Name Is Forward" that energy has been set aside in favor of tastefulness in an AOR sense. Sometimes it works, as with the understated groove on the verses of "Sacrifice" and the hitting-bottom feeling of "Going Down," perhaps the best song on the album where Krueger's ear for arrangements comes to the fore, a delicate blend of acoustic guitar and distant organ on the verses and a swelling but always understated full band performance on the choruses.
by Ned Raggett