Young Culture – ‘Young Culture’

By Gem Rogers

It’s only four short (or in some cases long – looking at you, 2020) years since Young Culture made their first appearance on the scene, but with a cluster of EPs, a swathe of US tours, and collaborations with the likes of Derek DiScanio (State Champs) under their belts, the Albany trio have already been making quite an impression. Their self-titled debut album is coming at what feels like just the right time, making an assured statement about who they are as a band – and this is easily a record that could, and should, push Young Culture to the forefront of the scene.

Opening track ‘Bloodthin’ may only be a short minute and a half, and it’s not the conventional upbeat explosion you might expect based on singles ‘Holiday In Vegas’ and ‘Better Off As Friends’, but as its gentle tones evolve into a symphony of melody and emotion, it’s clear that this isn’t going to be an album of standard pop punk fare. There’s a feel of early Mayday Parade in the careful restraint and swells – think ‘Three Cheers For Five Years’ and you’re not far off – but there’s a soothing soulfulness in Alex Magnan’s vocals that instantly sets Young Culture apart as the album slips comfortably into effervescent second track ‘Compass’.

Though the lyrics often feel reminiscent and reflective, there’s a youthful optimism that underpins the sound of these first few songs, and it continues throughout; the result is an album that feels positively uplifting, even when the words speak of the challenges of growing up and fracturing relationships on tracks like the pop punky ‘American Idle’. The soft lilt of ‘Anywhere I Go, I’m Taking You With Me’, ‘I’ll Be There’, and closing track ‘Laylo’ bring that positivity all together in love songs that are sugary sweet without diving into saccharine, and even the hardest of hearts will surely soften in the warm glow that shines from them.

There’s a timelessness about the sound on this record, channelling modern melodies that pop legends like Taylor Swift would be proud of with a rock-based feel that wouldn’t seem out of place on a classic album by the likes of Train or Matchbox Twenty – and for fans of the 90s, there’s a hefty dose of retro vibes woven through tracks like ‘I’ll Be There’ that make for a refreshing change from the currently popular neon synths of the 80s. Standout track and single ‘Hailey Beverly 2016’ is a prime example of just how well Young Culture blend all their influences into three memorable and utterly enjoyable minutes, while ‘Fantasy’ draws on a sax solo to show that nothing is off limits creatively (and, frankly, life needs more sax solos like this).

‘Young Culture’ is not an album that follows the lead; this is the work of a band forging their own path, creating music that feels both authentic and fresh from start to finish, not to mention being incredibly easy to stick on repeat for days at a time. If the singles left you feeling unsure, rest assured that it all comes together here in a sound that makes complete sense – and once these songs are in your head, they’re unlikely to ever leave (in a good way, promise). Young Culture have created something that feels like the musical equivalent of hanging out with your best pals in summer, and just like those sun-soaked evenings, this a place and a feeling to which you should hold on tight; if this is only the beginning, we can’t wait to see what’s in store.

GEM ROGERS

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