For a band that doesn’t have unlimited funds, recording in a studio can be nerve wracking. Every minute that passes represents a dollar gone, and the expectation to nail down a cohesive album with tight performances is exponentially higher. Buffalo local indie rock band Younger Then knew the stakes were high when they walked into Nashville based Blackbird Studio- the same studio that recorded albums for the likes of Kings of Leon and Lynard Skynard. With a short time period, and uncertainty surrounding the loss of a bass player, Younger Then rolled up their sleeves and got to work. The product is an expertly produced, 11-track roller coaster of an album that dropped October 12 via Standby Records.
Their second release, Bad Life, is both a continuation and improvement from their first release. The growth of the band as a unit is evident. The songs are well written and, despite the high-pressure situation in the studio, Younger Then is able to capitalize on the world class studio production and deliver 11 catchy songs in an immersive, exploratory album. Michael Wirth (bass/guitar) provides a strong rhythmic foundation on both bass and guitar that Jeremy Shields (drums) builds upon in a big way. Austin Dorr (guitar) writes lead lines that interplay with Zack Dupuis’ soaring vocals. These elements together, plus the clean production, makes for a big sound with a lot of clarity.
It was an unexpected surprise to hear the amount of experimentation in each tune. The group is very good at expanding the role of the guitar, finding different tones and timbres to accentuate the mood of a song. The fourth track, “Sarah Told Them,” has a set of reverb-washed guitars and a spacious synth. These mesh to create a beautiful canvas for Dupuis to paint on with his musings on finding one’s way. The song has a steady build and emotes the lyrical content well. This track, while harmonically verdant, doesn’t lean as hard on raw energy as much as a few other tracks.
The first tune, “All in All”, kicks the album off with a high-energy wind sprint of a song. The sound is huge, and Shields sets the precedence early on that his drums will be a commanding presence throughout the album. The drums are a major highlight from beginning to end. Lightning fills and huge toms round out a massive sounding kit, while Shields is simultaneously able to gently work the hi-hat to give the rhythm a big dynamic range. The bass stays in the pocket for the most part, save for a feature on “Wishing Tree”, but this works with how high-octane the drums are. The interplay between the two services the song more than the individual parts.
A common theme throughout the whole work is how well each part plays to the larger picture. Analyzing the pieces is somewhat trivial- ‘Bad Life’ doesn’t take many theoretical risks and the instrumentals are simple for the most part. Typically this would be a knock, but with how the songs are written it works great to create a cohesive song, as opposed to a stand-out single instrument performance. The layering of uniquely effected guitars along with Dupuis’ consistently well-executed vocals fit like a glove along with the pocket-bass and the blistering drums. There are points where you’ll be listening in on a single instrument only to be pulled away by something just as interesting coming from your other earbud. Some of the spacious guitar lines sound like something from a deep-cut The 1975 song (like in track 9, “Luna”). These are contrasted at various points in the album by more clean guitars with tremolo and chorus to widen the sound. There’s so much to catch within the confines of each song, every one having replay value.
Lyrically, there is an arc that the narrator creates. It centers around feeling displaced and unwanted. Further listening will shed more light on the exact meaning of each word and phrase, but for the most part the arc is uplifting yet realistic. It’s not fairy-tale happy and not whiny. It sits in a firm position of realism, acting as another reflection of the maturation of the band’s writing style. On top of this, the melodies themselves outside of the lyrics are sticky. The verses ride easy, and the chorus parts yield ear-worm hooks that’ll get stuck in your head for days. The structures are simple, making the album very accessible and easy to learn as a listener who no doubt will want to sing along. This way, when you catch them live, you’ll be able to sing along with their new tunes! Add ‘Bad Life’ to your fall and winter playlists and be on the lookout for these guys as they begin to branch out of the area and into the larger industry!
Key Tracks: Sarah Told Them, Bad Life, All in All