Youth Novel - Turned Around Abruptly Beside a Mirror and Jumped at My Own Reflection
Record Label: Self Released
Release Date: May 23, 2014
There's a lot be said for the cathartic nature of a good old fashioned screamo record. We're talking 90s screamo, here - Orchid, Saetia... all the old bands who's names are barely mentioned outside of a few screamo messageboards here and there. Bands that completely lack any type of mainstream appeal, bands who lack melody and precision, bands who are the musical equivalent of screaming at your reflection in the mirror for fifteen minutes. Whilst they may not fulfill the needs that many turn to music for - singing along, relatability, whatever - they do help to preoccupy the spaces within one's mind which get hollowed out my the general causes for disaffection that we all encounter on a daily basis. Basically, sometimes it's nice to fuck shit up with a crazy soundtrack. That's where Youth Novel come in. One of the best and brightest of the screamo bands currently writing and playing deep, deep underground (like four floors below the 'emo revival'), Youth Novel have dropped a new EP wonderfully titled Turned Around Abruptly Beside a Mirror and Jumped at My Own Reflection, and it's perfect material to get sadly angry to.
If previous sounds from Youth Novel suggest that the Ann Arbor foursome might be likely to fall in line with the twinkles and indie hints of the current emo scene, the four tracks of Turned Around... will dispel any fears (or hopes, depending on your preferences). Throughout the roughly ten minute long EP, we encounter endless screams, chaotic instrumentation and quite dark lyricism. From the very first minute to the last, the EP barely slows down - it's a full throttle blast of screamo. "I"'s tired sounding opening chords set the precedent for an EP filled with sadness and rage. Procedures certainly start off at a high point as "I"'s poetic lyricism flourishes over erratic guitarwork which manages to be heavy and fragile simultaneously. The same can be said of "IV". Scuzzy guitars and somewhat jazzy drumming create a perfect atmosphere for the tired rage of the vocalist and make for a thoroughly cathartic listening experience.
However, whilst the EP is book-ended by highlights, somewhere in the middle, things go a little wrong for Youth Novel. Whilst lyrically speaking, both tracks are wonderfully intense and poetic, the words are somewhat wasted. Where screamo is very much embroiled in a world where the heavier a track is, the better it is, it seems like Youth Novel aren't quite skilled yet at wielding extreme heaviness. "II" just passes by in a blur of noise which culminates in a pair of competing screams which go beyond the point of abrasive to become repetitive and unenjoyable. For a band to create attractive heavy music, it needs to accompanied by some other feature - melody, frailty, etc.., however, Youth Novel miss that on "II" which leads to much it's successor, "III" seeming a little dull compared to what's just played out.
Youth Novel are a highly promising band. They are operating within a genre and scene which receives so little media attention and coverage that it's going to be a struggle for them to receive proper criticism or get the chance to iron out the creases that exist within this EP. However, if they do get that chance and are able to develop their sound to a point where they know themselves enough to know where their strengths lie, Youth Novel could be the band to bring screamo in to the conversation about modern emo. We'll have to wait and see.