AVENUE

album review – Youth League’s “First EP”

Debut album signals something special from a local band.

By Brian Tucker

At Reggie’s Records this afternoon Virgin Lung’s full length album was playing in the store. It sounded so good. Last year it was sad news to learn they disbanded, a local band that created such a great wall of sound within songs – loud, large, intensely dynamic and in your face but in the kindest way.

Had that not ended there’d be no Youth League. With loss comes gain. And another great album. First EP is their first collection of material (with great song titles).

Youth League is a trio – Mike and Zack Large of Virgin Lung and Jaffar Omar Obi Castillon-Martinez formerly of Coup de Grace. Both were instrumental bands at their core (Virgin Lung had some songs with vocals) and pieces of each band can be found on First EP. It helps kick off 2015 with new music from local musicians (so far we’ve seen releases from Thunderlip, American Americans, and Jerry Powell).

youth league first ep

These songs feel so alive, material that sounds, shall I say, cheerful? Youth League lives up to their name. The songs are youthful. And they’re tribal, frenzied, ecstatic, hopeful, and complicated. It’s music that sounds at peace and excited simultaneously. It aims high, notably the short but sweet instrumental “Fútbol>Football” that happily blazes by.

With each song music is at once driving and emotionally rich. Mike Large sounds great on vocals, different from the Virgin Lung songs and much fuller (see “Japanese Draculas”). There’s dynamic stuff on First EP, where poetic notes give way to tense, hypnotic ones (see “Let’s Elope!”) that can be playful and harmonious in the same space. Its where crashing percussion seems to stalk guitar playing that climbs and descends on “Young/Old,” a song opening the album with solid footing.

youth league

The band sounds textured and introspective on standout track “Japanese Draculas,” where warm vocals mesh with rippled guitar playing. The song feels introspective, with driving energy threading the song, and over too soon at two and a half minutes. Brevity of most of the six songs makes them better, not so much a less-is-more attribute, but rather that nothing overstays its welcome.

That’s specifically addressed by “ZK Missed Out On Some Quality Raccoon Time” with its manic, 70s Yes band quality. It explodes like confetti in a small room. So is “For John” which is equally manic but more serious in delivery. If there is a heated track on the EP it’s this one, one more defiant than angry. 

These are musicians I’ve seen over the years deliver powerful sets of live music. Given the veracity and energy on this EP the material should make for a great show.

Youth League plays at Reggie’s February 27th with Must Be the Holy Ghost, Totally Slow, and Pet Names. Go see them.

A video is being made for “For John” and will appear in the spring.

First EP full album playlist:

Coup de Grace:

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