Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Young Man - Beyond Was All Around Me (2013)

It's rather true to form that Beyond Was All Around Me, the last in Colin Caulfield's Young Man trilogy of albums about growing up arrives musically without very much pomp or fireworks. Rather like the sudden realization that you are in someway different than you were before i.e. an "adult", that's pretty much how Beyond Was All Around Me proceeds.

While many of the trappings of Young Man past are present in the album's patient build-ups and plods and casual glide of one song into another, album opener "It's Alright" starts on a dynamically different note than its counterpart in Vol. 1's "Heading. Where a half minute goes by before any sort of cohesive musical thought takes shape and nearly another half minute before its first words is even uttered, "It's Alright" begins right out of the gate with a smooth head-bobbing groove quickly followed by the entrance of Caulfield's vocals. Though even in this main difference, you can hear how alike they are, Caulfield still reveling in the electronic sounds to give the track an added textural layer.

Beyond Was All Around Me proceeds very much in this manner; quick moving pop with insistent toe-tapping grooves. It's clear on this album more than any other that Young Man has become far more of unit than simply a platform for Caulfield's musings. Though lauded as a consummate popsmith, the evidence of that was rarely as readily apparently it is now; Ideas of Distance: a collection of slowly bursting emotional reveries that really relished in the things it had to say and Vol. 1 trying to fuse that thought with a faster pace and more memorable, enjoyable hooks. On Beyond Was All Around Me, Caulfield's ponderings become, for better or worse, mostly secondary. Unlike many of Vol. 1's tracks, Caulfield doesn't see the need to repeat a single verse to give it added importance, instead allowing what's truly important to jump out at you. Just look at definite album standout "In Time" with its blustering prog-rock leanings which allows its singular theme to percolate at just the right moment: "I'd like to be a better man in time".

The album doesn't really slow down, not truly anyway, until "Being Alone" with sweeping string ornaments and unobstructed acoustic guitar. It's a much needed opportunity to appreciate what Young Man has offered up in its past releases: lush instrumentation cushioning a strong lyrical prowess. It's a major turning point in what to, up until this point, had been an album relying more on the familiarity of a band that's played together for awhile and really, truly, allowing the lyrics to motivate the action. It's not done in a manner that undoes any of the good work done in the first part but it's clear everything has changed. Songs are slower, the lyrics far more prevalent, and we get more clues as to what Caulfield's trying to leave us with.

While it requires an additional sort of diligence to catch everything that is happening lyrically and frame it in relation to Caulfield's ongoing narrative. It's easy to get so incredibly bogged down with a concept that it doesn't allow the music to really stand on its own but thankfully, Caulfield allows a little opportunity to enjoy the album for what it is: an elegantly crafted collection of pop rock gems elevated by earned moments of poignancy. With Young Man function in a lot of ways as a sort of musical young adult novel, the real twist is how far Colin Caulfield's come with this project. Able to recall the best things about each previous release to better benefit his last, Beyond Was All Around Me sees the return of Ideas of Distances' more diverse instrumentation choices, Vol. 1's cohesive sprawl and more accessible arrangements, but it's more than just cherry-picking things that worked. Caulfield has learned from his own experiences and puts them almost flawlessly into action. The result is a work that's special not only in its intentions but for just how good it manages to come out.

You can stream the album on Rolling Stone. Beyond Was All Around Me is out now and you can buy it via Frenchkiss, on iTunes or most other digital retailers which I strongly recommend because it is excellent.

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