Youthmovies - Good Nature

James McDonald 12/03/2008

Rating: 5/5

Today was a small milestone in my life, something trivial you may think, but one which I'll take a the following paragraphs to share.

Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies, among their peers, are an Oxford quintet making music as charismatic as their title would suggest. 2004's six-track 'Hurrah!' went some length in introducing the foundations of the band we hear today, and their work with new-folk pioneer Adam Gnade offered more evidence, if needed, of diversity the troupe posses. But it's the material they've documented on 'Good Nature', which gives the strongest indication as to what their strategy has been all along; taking everything you love about music and delivering it without holding anything back. Here are 10 reasons why:

'Good Nature' opens with an ominous looming note, creating the kind of atmosphere you'd expect prior to a space shuttle launch or public execution, perhaps. The noise grows, reinforced by haunting choir acapella and softly dancing guitar, before bursting into song - namely the sprightly and spirited 'Magdalen Bridge'. The track offers the first taste of Andrew Mears' charmingly naive vocal sound, whilst combining the start-stop mantra of the band's trademark time sequences. Uplifting and packed with allure, the opener insights notions of progress and bright skies ahead; a fitting start given the content which follows.

The pace is maintained by 'The Naughtiest Girl is a Monitor', now greatly benefiting from a elongated introduction previously cut by the single release. The track manages to document everything that's compelling and exciting about being in your teens, with an inseparable blend of spikey prog-rock poetry over musing time signatures. This is all reinforced by seamless interplay between crunchy guitars and chorus' laced with charmingly playful lyrics, that can't help but provoke a smile. And this is all before you reach Youthmovies' interpretation of the middle eight; a bellowing trumpet solo underlined by deliciously mischievous guitars. A triumph in itself. Take a moment to watch the video because I'm running out of superlatives.

Next to a track which, given it's length at least, is more to Youthmovies' character of old. The glittering 'Soandso And Soandso' is a bitter and stubborn tune; opening with a bold trumpet sound, the track trips and and trots along with baffling inter-changes and strategic off beats. A clear insight into the intellect behind this band - 'Soandso' pauses midway for a brisk acapella of the sinister line 'it bubbles and blisters', delivered with uncompromising vocal warmth. This is later juxtaposed after the second chorus by possibly the coldest and cleverest chord change this listener has ever had the good fortune to sample. The transition, in turn, leads into a three minute discordant guitar solo illustrating perfectly the darkness which had been bubbling under the surface of the song throughout. Quite the experience live, this flagship event is captured perfectly by the recorded version.

Barely leaving time to catch breath, 'Last Night of the Proms' burst in next, with a faux-rock introduction which wouldn't sound too out of place as the theme for the new formula one season. Another display of the band's quality to keep the listener guessing throughout as to where this journey will take them next. Provoking lyrics and unrelenting waves of symbol and bass conclude with a raw distorted guitar noise which conjures up connotations of Pretty Girls Make Graves at their prime. Any hairs on your neck should be fully upright by this point.

Deeper into the album, 'Cannula' offers some respite from the barrage of the opening four tracks. It's sharp and mysterious acoustic nature battles with thumping electronic drums and tasteful volins, culminating in whispers of 'rattle snakes' at it's tail end. A sombre predecessor to a track which for me stands out from this LP, albeit no more than an inch taller over it's peers on the release; the mesmorising anthem 'If You'd Seen A Battlefield'. The track roots from a hazy guitar introduction, and is then built upon by a booming trumpet and kick-drum combination before the timeless line 'It's not going well and it's not going badly/it's just going along', is admitted over a delicious math-rock guitar riff. The rest, as they say, is history. The track never fails to bring a smile to my face; for me this is exactly why I've fallen so hopelessly in love with the music Youthmovies are making. It's something to be experienced and promptly savored.

'Ssh! You'll Wake It' is also a reflective gem amidst the progressive rock noise of Good Nature, benefiting grandly from a 30 strong choir of 'Broken Throats' (friends and fans employed to sing on the track), whilst 'Something For The Ghosts' is largely a disorientating orgasm over effect pedals, backed by a rumbling bass line which perseveres for no less than six minutes. Think tripping acid in a vast jungle. Just as you begin to question the bands motives over this addition, they cheekily return to melody with the line 'Don't you ever be afraid, there's safety in our escapades.' Cue an epidemic of jaw-dropping related admissions to local A&E departments.

Good Nature's penultimate offering, 'Archive It Everywhere', is an emotional journey which sails through musical storm and sea as the track braves varying dynamics. Some of the album's finest lyrics can be found here, performed with a tone that carefully contrasts sorrow and benevolence ('and if your breathing becomes narrow/i'll turn of this glare and make these dusty shards of light depart') with unwavering aplomb. This all combines effortlessly to leave the listener feeling like a shell washed up on the shore. 'Surtsey' , the album's conclusion, is more power ballad than concept piece in places, but annoyingly without compromising brilliance. The sound of five people taking everything they love about music and delivering it without holding anything back.

These 10 reasons, all culminate in my belief that Good Nature is undoubtedly one of the most exciting, challenging and important release this year will hear. Something trivial you may think.