When I first listened to Neutral Milk Hotel, like many others, I was shocked how popular they were within the 'Indie community'. Jeff Mangum gives his all with concise lyrics and emotional vocals, with lo-fi Indie-Folk being his backing track. It's not that I'm comparing Neutral Milk Hotel to this band, that would be incredibly sinister of me. Youth On Fire take an influence from Neutral Milk Hotel, in both song structure and production.
These four sixteen year old's recorded this in a home studio. To record something of this sound quality at that age requires skill and time, both of which the band has. Member wise, I have no idea who produced this album, I'm guessing it was a collaboration between each member, where they recorded each part separately and all had a say in how they should place it together and what effects they should add afterwards.
It's masked in a wall of vocal distortion and clear acoustic guitars, with synthesizers also distorted and just about everything else they could find being used. Paperskin is a great track, at just over 2 minutes, the opening lyrics sum up the rest of the album, "At my age, this town is a prison". They're rebelling, using music as a suitable form of expression. It feautures some clear drumming and distorted, but clear vocals, which is heard throughout the album. The vocals are not my cup of tea, they're very emo but then again, this album is build around a broken relationship.
The band released the album for free on their bandcamp, which is a great way to get your music heard. The cover is a picture of a burned out building from the riots earlier this year. It gives a perfect image of 'youth in revolt'. This isn't the case for the pre mentioned riots, as initially it was a peaceful demonstration, which eventually turned into looting and vandalism with no relation to the initial protest. Never the less, it's a suitable album cover, with both the band name and the style of music.
Sun Glowz is by far the best track on the album. With opening lyrics 'my days are better than my dreams'. Distorted synthesizers rip through the track with a clear acoustic guitar and easy going bass. An electric guitar does eventually fade in, which leads the way for the second half of the track. Which we hear after the King of Carrot Flowers Part 3 session they have going on, with great distortion and fantastic drumming. This is the point where the bass takes control with a drum machine and delayed electric guitar. I don't like the mix between this loop and the acoustic guitar, but when this segment comes to a close, an ambient, slow progression prepares you for for the final segment of great guitar playing and a poppy electronic beat, which ends with more synthesizers, this time mellow and violin like.
Mammoth is a 9 minute thunderous track with a bass riff which amazes me. The riff lasts for about 6 minutes in total. With the bass being the lead instrument, everything surrounding the riff needs to draw the listener away, which is what happens. Electric guitar solo's and a synthesizer riff take control, the synth following the bass riff. Lyrics focusing on the eventual break up of the relationship with vocals which are not heard clearly, due to the sheer volume of the bass. The steady drum beat keeps the track in movement, it doesn't become repetitive as ambiance takes place which leads to the typical acoustic guitar and synthesized fade out.
The later tracks don't have the same musical effect as the previous few, but they're slower, lyrical based tracks about the aftermath. The concept is in place here, so the music can follow suit and the guitar work does exactly that. Lyrics of pure sadness such as, "We were just glad to be with each other".
For a first release, (I'm guessing it is) this is very good. The lyrics are in place with great references to to situations and real life events which have taken place. The vocals have a dirty, distorted sound which sounds very 90's. Guitar work is fantastic in places with very little mistakes, the production makes up for the weaker sections of the album. The vocals do lack skill, it's something i would work on personally. They do have character, but most listeners will be reluctant to listen on if they dislike the vocals. Which is very bad in this case because the music is extremely good for the budget of recording equipment. Certain areas are messy, these areas can be improved over time, such as with recording the acoustic guitar. The lo-fi, noise which is produced works well with the lyrics, one which caught my attention, "and when you tell me that you love me, i almost want to die" brings out plenty of emotion. It was a nice listen, if i had any say or action within a record label, I'd be talking to these guys. I'm predicting a bright future, they can only grow in maturity and skill over time, as soon as they start recording in a proper studio, they'll hear some drastic improvements.