REVIEW: Youngblood Hawke Self Titled EP

Let’s be honest, when you‘ve never heard of a band, it’s usually for a good reason. So when I encountered the Youngblood Hawke new self titled EP knowing more about the book from which the band gets its name than the band, expectations were low. However, to my surprise, the group’s first release, Youngblood Hawke – EP, and its mix of techno sounds and indie pop creates a work that is musically complex and easy to like. Contrary to “out there” indie that is appealing only to those who adore Bon Iver, Youngblood Hawke is simply a good pop band that we all don’t have to be ashamed of liking.

Founded in Los Angeles, California in 2010, Youngblood Hawke has been playing the local venues for several years with mostly positive reviews. Gaining popularity on the west coast, the band and its five members out of the golden state released their first work (a self titled EP) with details on a national tour alongside the band Keane. Though I didn’t believe the claim that the group could be “the next big thing,” I began to see the possibility after my first listen through the EP. In general, Youngblood Hawke – EP is reminiscent of Fun.’s album Some Nights. Both works appear to have similar music styling’s as well draw their influence from the new growing pool of songs and artists addressing post adolescent angst. The albums both share philosophical arguments ranging from “why do I miss my parents?” to “how is it possible that a man can sing so high?” Seeing as Fun had such great national success with Some Nights, Youngblood Hawke has the potential to follow suit with their pop indie creations.

If you have heard of this group before, chances are it is as a result of the EP’s first track “We Come Running.” Released as the group’s first single (which makes me significantly question their judgment) this track is interesting and showcases the band’s unique instrumentation, including a synthesizer and the distinguishing Vince Neil meets Bob Dylan vocal stylings. However, as good as the track is, it’s not the best on the EP. Their use of a children’s choir and the overly processed sounds makes the music grand and epic. However, implementing these elements early on in the track makes the song go from zero to sixty in forty seconds and stays there for the remaining three minutes and twenty two seconds of the song. Where is the build up!? The add-ons are nice and speak to the band’s style, but the contrast of silence juxtaposed with musical chaos is an element that was lost in this track. As good at it is, I find myself focusing more on what this track could have been instead of what it actually is.

In contrast with the fun, free, middle school choir feel of the EP’s single, the EP’s third track, “Forever,” the most angsty of all the compilation’s songs, is surprisingly easy to like and begins with a chord progression that makes the piece enjoyable, despite the lyrics being such a drag.  This song is a testament to Youngblood Hawke’s pop sound and likeability as it takes the unamiable topic of relationships on the rocks and tricks us into likening it with catchy chord progressions and lightly processed sounds. Those bastards! In addition, the synthesizer and other electronic instrumentation in this piece give the work a feeling that mimics that of other popular music. But pretentious indie fans are not to fear! Sang drunk in my room, Geronimo!/ Like an old great singer, throat full of smoke/ The versus of this song are as creative as they are kick ass despite “Forever” being the closest thing the EP has to a “touchy feely” track.

But let’s be honest, though every band has their sympathetic ballad, Youngblood Hawke isn’t here to whine about hardship, they make their music for dancing and shaking off whatever blues ails you.  Youngblood Hawke finished strong with the EP’s final track “Rootless,” whose beats imprint a strong and accurate image of the band in one’s head. These guys, and one girl, are here to have fun with their music. A catchy, fast paced rock beat mixed with a tacky 1980s high school dance, this track is an interesting combination of both contemporary and retro musical stylings. (see hipsters, I said you shouldn’t fear).  Unfortunately, much like in “We Come Running,” the beat and grandeur of the track runs the risk of making it feel repetitive and plain. A song that starts of great may have you switching tracks by its middle.

I listened to Youngblood Hawke – EP thinking that the compilation would be nothing more than another group with relatively bland sounds, which would result in bad review that would be both fun to write and to read. To my surprise Youngblood Hawke – EP  was actually worth the time and effort I put into listening to it; the pop qualities made it likeable the first time through. But to say even more, the EP presents a coherent and consistent style throughout the entirety of the work, and for a group that is barely three years old, seeing such certainty and control over their artistic direction is worth appreciating (even if you do think their music blows).

Unfortunately, the band’s processed electronic sounds that define much of their style are difficult to replicate during live performances (case in point, their performance on Jay Leno on January 5th 2013). While the EP alone is good, the fate of the group may lie more on their live performances in their upcoming tour than on their studio release. This group could be as big as Fun.. That is, if their performance inspires listeners to get on their iPhones and Google the band. But if they are like most opening acts I’ve seen, all they will do is inspire the listener to go take a piss before the real show starts.

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