Review | Young Hunting ~ Hazel

May 16th, 2013 by TJ

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Young Hunting | Hazel

Words by Lee Adcock

If you cringe at the prospect of a summer laden with sunny pop, Young Hunting may be your salvation this year. This five-piece dream team from Los Angeles is set to release their debut LP, Hazel, on Gold Robot Records – and while it may be steeped in California’s flower-power history, Young Hunting cast sepia shades over their lush sound by easing back the tempo and centering in on tragic narratives and sorrowful themes. They often favor hollow, thudding tom beats over snares or cymbals, rendering much of their tracks with an intimate, subdued feel. The horn features that crop up never sound bright or triumphant, but instead accentuate the forlorn, washed-out mood that permeates Hazel.

Into Yr Mind’ sets the scene, stealing in slowly but steadily with gently plucked chords that should immediately trigger waves of sun-drenched nostalgia, but here color something solemnly dreamy. ‘Sweet Bird‘ bears the classic staccato strum of a 50s slow dance, and the vocalist matches the smoothest tuxedo-clad crooner. Yet, beneath that innocent veneer, something sinister lurks – the line about “the blood on your hands” is particularly striking. Similarly, while Maze may sparkle with chimes, more pert riffs, and even a sublime solo, the tune progresses with a shade of menace.

Still, there’s so much beauty to admire in this album, from ‘Wrecking Ball’s drum-driven intro and distant, yearning ambience to the blossoming shoegaze guitars that swirl about the powerful Rust. Behind these gorgeous tunes, however, lie sorrow, bitterness, and loss, expressed clearly in each song’s poignant lyrics. Indeed, the most aching, devastating track on the album is also the most lyrical – the ballad of ‘Annabelle’. It’s the classic tale of the treacherous girl, but it’s kissed with sweet steel guitars and graced with yet another. Vivid, haunting images fill the lyrics, such as the cold kitchen and the crying baby abandoned by the absent mother, and especially the sun dress left on the beach that – well, if I said any more, I’d spoil the tale. But listen for the sun dress. You’ll be heartbroken, too, I assure you.

Elsewhere, White Light Years proves to be the liveliest track on Hazel, but by no means less lovely. It’s also the most surprising, as it shifts from its mellow, almost folksy verses to a stirring, galloping chorus. Young Hunting bare their teeth a bit on ‘Baby’s First Steps’, a rolling number which builds to a snappy guitar solo. After venturing through so many shades of their melancholy style, the band circles back to the beginning on “Ride On”, which progresses in the same slow and majestic step that ‘Into Yr Mind‘ crept in with. The beautiful horn solo towards the end, however, heralds its quiet, sudden outro.

Alone, each of the tracks on Hazel is simply beautiful; woven together, however, they impress the listener with an indelible sorrow, a sullen mood that lingers like the drowsy disappointment from a daydream that cannot come true. These alluring, multi-faceted tunes demand multiple plays to fully unravel their nuanced orthodoxy, but the first impression should be enough to melt your heart. Young Hunting have crafted a fine, fine debut here, and I hope that I won’t be the only one enchanted under its spell. Until Gold Robot Records release Hazel on 11 June, however, you can at least dip into some of Young Hunting’s hypnotic work below.

Pre-order Hazel via Gold Robot Records here.

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