Monday, April 14, 2008

Quick-hitters:: Young & Sexy The Arc

Yeesh. Mint Records has quite a few bands with some concern-icus names. Like their equally ill-monikered labelmates (The Buttless Chaps), Young and Sexy is entering year ten of existence and has never managed to convert immense talent into record sales. They are loved by fans and critics, but never seem to get the credit they deserve.

It could be due to the ever changing lineup and big gaps between releases, or maybe how the band is never satisfied with a stagnant sound. Over the years Paul Hixon Pittman and Lucy Brain have shifted and evolved their sound from shimmering Beach Boys influenced bliss to piano driven goodness (like my fav Y & S track - Weekend Warriors) to darker melodies, and the new record - The Arc - shows the band taken another big step out of the light and into the shadows.

That's not to say Y & S have pushed their sound into the macabre. They are still writing pop songs, they just construct them as a collage of slow, beautiful elements, with a warm haze that embraces the vocals. Gone are the summery numbers like the band used so effectively on earlier records (although the ironically titled The Fog and the opening of Saucerful Of Fire comes close), as the focus seems to have migrated away from 70's AM radio singles towards the unenviable task of creating an "album."

I don't want to give the impression that this record isn't melodic - the choral aspects on tracks like Young & Sexy Vs. The Arc are terrific but are contrasted with chaotic swirls - they just seem to be in a slightly, darker place. Instead of adding a shimmer, they experiment with denser, dreamlike staccato guitar blasts and fuzz (Spill the Sky). The end result is a stronger collection of songs. A single might not jump out of your headphones, but you never feel a lag in the listen. Saucerful of Fire constantly changes it's shape, refusing to settle into the easy melody. The beautiful steel on The Poisoned Cup adds a hint of remorse and also sets the stage for Lucy's spoken word breakdown.

The band really balances the grey with several charming tracks. Up In The Rafters is a comforting track that uses the intimacy of fret board squeaks and wooden xylophones to make the duet feel like it was written and sung for you, but they aren't trying to take you to a fantasy world. You don't feel like you are driving along the coast with sunglasses on and the top down. Instead you are left hunting for the beauty in the world we live in. Young & Sexy might not flaunt that beauty, but they definitely reward you for looking.

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Posted at 6:24 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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