Youngblood Hawke – Wake Up
Record Label: Universal Republic
Release Date: April 23 2013
Every so often, a band comes along that you just have to keep your eyes (and ears) on. Most of the time, you either hear about them for a long time then finally decide to check the band out, or they just random surprise you. Both cases have been true for me so far this year, but the former is how I came to discover CA outfit Youngblood Hawke. Earlier this year, I reviewed the band’s self-titled EP, which was released in 2012, but I didn’t get the chance to check it out until this year, despite seeing a copy of it at my local Best Buy for months on end. I just wasn’t interested in the band, until I had some cash to blow, so I thought I’d spend it on the EP, which was only $5. Good deal, right? Definitely. What I got were five tracks of well-crafted indie-pop, compared to the likes of Phoenix and Vampire Weekend. Both bands have new albums coming out this year, and in fact, at the moment I write this, Phoenix released a new album on the same day, and I will be checking that out soon, so I can review that record as well. In the meantime, this review will be about Youngblood Hawke’s debut record Wake Up, which is a fitting title, because mainstream radio stations truly do need to wake up to this band. I’m surprised they already haven’t blown up, because they have a perfect sound for radio, which is what bands like Imagine Dragons and Atlas Genius have been seeing as well. Those are two examples of bands that have a similar sound and are absolutely fantastic. Imagine Dragons released a critically acclaimed album last year (Night Visions, for those of who are not familiar with it), only to re-release it this year with a few bonus tracks (rather, they’re just all the bonus tracks that have been on the iTunes, and Best Buy versions of the records). Atlas Genius, on the other hand, released an album this year to critical acclaim as well, and I personally loved it.
Anyhow, Youngblood Hawke is a band that could definitely hold their own with these bands, despite being very new. The self-titled EP was a great look at the band, even though it was only just a few songs on an EP. The five songs on the EP were lovely, catchy indie-pop that didn’t have a care in the world. That leads me to a rather disappointing aspect of the debut record Wake Up that I immediately noticed before hitting play, or it’s excited, depending on how you feel about it. What I’m referring to is that all five songs on the EP make an appearance on the debut record, so out of 13 songs, only eight of them are new songs. Is that okay? Well, yes, and no. I have mixed feelings when bands do this. Imagine Dragons actually did this for debut album Night Visions – they included a few songs from their prior EP Continued Silence on the debut record, and while they were pretty solid songs, the record wasn’t as great to me, because I already knew a few of the songs, and that’s how I feel here. All five songs from Youngblood Hawke’s self-titled EP are here, so we, the listener, are only getting eight new songs, and it’s a bit of a letdown. This is no reflection of the whole record, but what I mean is that I’d rather have a whole album’s worth of new songs, or almost a full album’s worth. If they kept a couple songs, like the most popular tracks, in the record, that would be fine, but because they kept all five, it’s not as fun and exciting as if they released all new songs, not recycled five of them. It’s not as new, or fresh, so to speak. Despite that, this is a great record on so many levels. For being a young band, this record is very impressive. While they don’t do anything different, they are unique, nonetheless. Their whole vibe is great, and they have a knack for going between very poppy and more “indie,” if that makes any sense. They’re a very appealing band for both people who enjoy pop music on the radio, and “hipsters,” who enjoy the most obscure indie bands known to mankind. With that being said, let’s wake up and dive into this album, shall we?
The first two tracks on this record are two songs from the self-titled EP, “Rootless” and “We Come Running.” The latter is arguably their most popular track, and the latter is what starts off the EP, so it’s a bit weird to hear these songs out of order, but only because I’ve been listening to the EP for so long. The former is actually one of my favorites from the EP, and one of the more memorable songs on it. All the songs were memorable, but on varying degrees, with “We Come Running” taking the stage, essentially. That song is easily one of the highlights on the record, and it’s nice that it appears early on in the record. Third track “Dreams” is where the record starts to enter the new song territory, and it’s about time. I am glad that they decided to start the record out with a couple of songs that have been released, but it’s disappointed they were altered whatsoever. This is one of my favorite tracks on the record, because while a song like “Rootless” and “We Come Running” showcase the “rock” aspect to their sound, “Dreams” and fourth track “Dannyboy” show off their skills with keys and synth to show listeners their “poppier” sound. There are plenty of catchy songs on the record, and these two just scratches the surface. This is one of the catchiest songs on the record, and it’ll surely get stuck in your head if you’re not careful. Fifth track “Stars (Hold On)” is another song that was from the EP, and it’s one of my favorites on it, actually. While they included the entire EP on the record, this is one of my favorites, so I’m happy they still included it.
After seventh track “Sleeping Streets” (which is another catchy indie-pop track and one of my favorites), the record starts to blend together a bit, as is the problems with most records like this. Well, long records, at least. The record is 48 minutes, so it can drag on a bit. If they only included a couple songs, I’d be fine with that, and it would make for a shorter record, but because they included all of them, it gets a bit lengthy. That’s not to say there aren’t any highlights, however; immediately following “Sleepless Streets,” eighth track “Say Say” is one of two five-minute songs on the record, and surprisingly, it works quite well. It doesn’t drag on, and it’s a very catchy and enjoyable song. After that, though, the songs just become muddled together. They are not terrible songs, and they hold their own as standalone songs, but they just blend together a bit. Ninth track “Blackbeak” is another catchy song with some great vocal melodies and harmonies, along with eleventh track. This song has a prominent piano riff paired with synth, but it’s still catchy like a lot of the other tracks on the record. The last two tracks are also great as well; twelfth track “Last Time” is the other five-minute track on the record, and this is a more “rock” track like the first couple songs on the record, along with a few others, but it’s a bit slowed down, and it actually has a bit of a ballad or anthem sound to it. Last track “In Our Blood” is actually the last track on the band’s self-titled EP, so it begins with familiarity but ends with it as well, which works quite nicely. This was another one of my favorite tracks from the EP, so I’m glad they ended with this song. Overall, this is a very solid indie-pop/rock record, and it’s one of the most impressive debut records that I’ve ever heard, in all honesty. For being such a young band, they’ve got quite a career ahead of them, and this record certainly shows it. It’s absolutely wonderful, and any fan of indie-pop, or indie-rock should pick this up immediately.