LOUDER REVIEWS: 'The Modern State' - The Young Hearts
The Young Hearts had a big year last year. They signed with newly established label Year of the Rat Records, and put out a string of singles that received a great reception. They are masters at creating big, lighter-waving pop rock tunes, and they do exactly what they do best across all eleven tracks that make up their debut LP, ‘The Modern State’.
The first bundle of tracks on this record are pumped full of the dizzy daydreams of adolescence. Opening with a glorious punch of drums into the foreground, opener ‘Wild and Reckless’ sounds like the opening title music for the dulcet soundscape that is to follow. Full of youthful vitality, when this - at long last- rings out across a sunny festival field, it will be enough to bring tear to your eye! Pumped full of the joyous abandon of teenage-dom, the images are snapshots of a picture-perfect youth, lived in movie-perfect bliss; a track borne from the blend of elation and panic you get whilst stepping off the ledge into the unknown world of adulthood.
This band certainly have a knack for giving highly apt names to their tracks, as ‘Easy Life’ demonstrates. Full of warm guitar tones played with an easy breezy abandon, the off-tempo drum fills in the chorus give a little sparkle to the arm-waving, mid-tempo melody. Indeed, if its summery bliss you’re searching for in these dark months, then this record has you covered. ‘Still Wander’ kicks the vitality into this record, as the cantering drums keep this track rippling onwards into another sunshine-filled chorus. ‘Old Familiar’s stereo-effect guitars instantly perk your attention up; this track was a big single for a reason! Its radio-ready vitality bursts into life, complimenting the touchingly heart-wrenching lyrics that touch on the sense of familiarity, coupled with a newfound distance that the transition into adulthood brings. That sentimentality is also found on ‘London’. The song is kept ticking along by the clockwork drums, while the lyrics are packed full of heart and soul, painting a vivid picture of late nights spent making the streets of the city the backdrop to your own little story. Yet, as picture-perfect as the life depicted within these lyrics appears, lines such as ‘I wish I could tell myself that I’m just not afraid anymore’ illustrate that there is a deeply held sadness bubbling away at the centre, disguised by the star-gazing imagery.
Bringing that emotion to the forefront are the album’s latter tracks, ncluding the likes of ‘Cold Nights’. Here, the opening guitar tone is simply gorgeous; deeper and more sultry than those that have gone before it, and the purity of the baseline is astounding. Though it is a touch darker in tone than its predecessors, there remains a very definite thread of pensive, bittersweet reflection that weaves its way through each of these tracks. Taking a darker step down again, title track ‘The Modern State’ is equally as introspective as its predecessors, yet that veil of heady jubilation has totally fallen away now, leaving the candid heart of the lyrics more exposed, and therefore more resonant. Indeed, when The Young Hearts do dark, they do it very well. The heartbeat pulse of drums at the opening of ‘Swim’ are yet moodier and more melancholy, as that candour again makes an appearance. There is still some fanciful atmosphere in the angelic harmonies and swooshing wave sounds lapping over the choruses, but you also can’t help but get the sense that the emotions fuelling this track are truly uncensored and distilled.
But by far and away the highlight of this record is the penultimate track ‘Anchors’. The guitar tone changes again here, and with all the punch and fire removed, it feels distilled down to its bare bones. The effects on the vocals, pared with the harmonies and haunting church organ is a sobering antidote to the saccharine vitality of the early part of the record. By far the most powerful track on the record, with tear-jerking lyrics, sung almost as if from beyond some invisible veil, the sense of grief and pain effervesces from every note. Yet as it slowly builds, it becomes something brighter – not happier, necessarily, but borne from a sense of peace rather than fear. It is a touching journey through grief to acceptance, explored through melody, that genuinely moved me to tears.
Despite this record’s many strong points and stand-out moments, it does come up against one major issue: monotony. Perhaps the best example of this comes along with ‘Fool’s Gold’. Following on from a series of five or six light, poppy tracks with a similar atmosphere and tone, the fatigue does start to set in by the time you reach this track. The instrumentation is mixed to perfection, yet it feels as though that creates a solid wall of balmy melody that washes over you in successive waves. There is definitely an argument that this song would benefit from more dynamic change, as, bar the occasional drum fill, the tempo remains relatively the same across the entire track, which has the potential to give it a sluggish atmosphere after a while. More intrigue is added just after the three-minute mark, as the track fades out into an ethereal landscape of drifting melodies. However, it doesn’t rouse itself again from that point onwards, leaving the final two minutes of the track to slosh and slide past you like a barely-remembered dream. If you’re a fan of soft, swaying pop rock, then you couldn’t ask for anything more; however, if digested all in one go, the tone and atmosphere of this record is almost indistinguishable from beginning to end.
That being said, closer ‘Don’t Tell A Soul’ does bring some energy racing back in for one final crescendo. In fact, this track could easily be paired with ‘Wild and Reckless’ to bookend the album, as this has the feel of a song that plays over the closing credits of this little coming-of-age movie. There is a sense that the youthful, rose-tinted spectacles have fallen away now, and the joy found here is offset by the pain explored in the earlier tracks, giving it a more real and a truer sense of hopefulness for the future.
'The Modern State' is out on the 29th of February - pre-order the record here:
Check out the video for 'Old Familiar' below, and our Lyric Breakdown that we did with the band last year here: