Unlocked: The Key’s review of Young Statues’ The Flatlands are Your Friend
It’s almost fitting that the release date of Young Statues’ sophomore LP, The Flatlands Are Your Friend, would fall around Halloween.
Whereas the South Jersey-based band’s self-titled debut could be categorized as indie pop, and its 2013 EP Age Isn’t Ours bordered on pop punk, Flatlands is something total different — an eerily haunting, rock-driven release.
We’re obviously not talking “Monster Mash” here. It’s edgy and emotional in the vein of “Gimme Shelter,” and a far cry from anything the band has ever done in the past.
Young Statues has always stuck out because they’ve never really fit in where they were. Punk and hardcore bands dominate the band’s label, Run For Cover Records. This has informed the tours Young Statues been on and the fan base they have developed. But you’d be mistaken to lump them in with many of their label mates or this “emo revival” everyone keeps talking about.
Young Statues is a lyric-and-melody-driven indie rock band, and Flatlands is the album we finally see them hitting their stride. It’s not that they’re re-inventing the wheel here. It’s not that core songwriter Carmen Cirignano is trying to. It’s not that it’s simple. It’s not that it’s intricate. It’s not that it’s catchy.
Flatlands has a realness to it that is without falter. The album was recorded live, maintaining a palpable energy only created when musicians are in one room making sounds together. We also hear that realness in the content; Flatlands rides an emotional roller coaster not so dissimilar from the one found in life. There’s a harshness and abruptness to “Run The River Dry,” an uneasiness to “Got The Knife,” an urgency to “No Shadow” and a sense of longing found in “Further Away.” None of these are the positive sensations fans felt when listening to that first self-titled record, perpetuated by its poppy backdrop and stream-of-conscious lyrics.
Flatlands opens with the robust “Natives,” which features dynamic drum fills and vocals and guitar playing we have come to expect from Cirignano’s. Tracks that are less-expected but still very much appreciated include the slow, somber and synthesized “Further Away,” and the acoustic-driven “Ain’t A Bad Thing to Lose,” which echoes back to older material but has more of a singer/songwriter vibe than a pop-driven one. “So I gave up on hoping that time / would be kind to me, wasn’t no chosen child,” Cirignano croons on the track.
Cirignano hits a different narrative chord on Flatlands, one that’s more encompassing of the general, modern human experience rather than of his own. Instead of offering stream-of-conscious descriptions of memories like the “Pretty Girls” that “Make Raves,” Flatlands comments on some of the darker aspects of living out life in modern times, especially for youth. “Making up for a lost child / sleeping on cold tile / mourning that soul like it’s no longer hers / Comfort in a fucked culture,” Cirignano spells out in the song “White Noise.”
It also feels like more of the band was utilized to flesh out the material. Where previous releases gave off the impression that the music was following the lyrics, Flatlands feels more deliberate, with many flourishes that build and resolve into enchanting instrumental breakdowns – the kind of musical moments that can only happen when every available instrument is considered and incorporated.
That said, Flatlands isn’t exactly one of those albums you would only want to listen to when they’re in a certain type of mood. It’s not to be saved for a special occasion, but listening to in a variety of contexts so as to feel the spectrum of what’s going on. Each listen will yield something different.
It’s also an album that can and should be taken as a whole. Not only do lyrical themes of each song complement each other, but no one or two tracks are the obvious standouts. Each play their role to make Flatlands cohesive – an attribute that’s rare of many releases nowadays, especially in this genre.
But one thing is for certain – experience this record for the first time this Halloween and by Thanksgiving you’ll be hooked.
The Flatlands Are Your Friend is the featured album in this week’s installment of Unlocked. Download “Got The Knife” in yesterday’s post, and check back tomorrow for an in-studio documentary, and later this week for a feature interview and more.