Diversions


Music Review: Gray Young by uncdiversions
April 12, 2009, 9:44 pm
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Gray Young

Firmament

(self-released)

There are moments in life when all the possibilities imaginable, both good and bad, seem spread out right in front of you. Graduations, first days on the job, moving into a new house, all these times hit with the bitter-sweet power of knowing that this fork in the road could take your life to splendid new heights or crushing lows.

Riding riffs that soar gracefully to the sky and simple, insistent rhythms, the music of Gray Young’s debut full-length makes its mark by recreating this feeling.

It’s a simple formula but one that the Chapel Hill trio turn into subtle magic on the record’s most memorable tracks.

On the title track, a plodding bass line and a riff that beautifully cascades and refreshes make an entrancing background for Chas MeKeown’s simple lyrics such as “Thinking back/what was that dream?” After a few minutes of this complative splendor, the band lets loose with a distorted guitar part that fills up all the space in your headphones and easily communicates the frustration of forgetting just what that wish you once wanted was.

All of Gray Young’s songs that actually contain singing, which make up about half of the record, follow similar patterns and yield similarly affecting results. The band broods, MeKeown looks back on “clouded eyes,” seasides and other hazy images from the past and then the band throws away all this nostalgia with a cathartic breakdown that revels in the expanse of possibility.

On the instrumentals, which are all admittedly good, the band sometimes gets lost. It’s not that the music is of a lower quality. It’s just that without the reference of MeKeown’s simple yet effective lyrics, the band’s almost melodramatic emotion comes off as unfocused and repetitive.

But luckily, there are enough standout instrumental moments to make up for this and keep the album interesting.

“First Perennial Fall” combines a gorgeous piano part made up of a repeated melody played over three chiming bass notes with arching waves of feedback to create a luxurious wall of sound that’s half regret, half resignation. Like much of the album, the song is so great because Gray Young realizes that sometimes two of the seemingly simplest sonic tools you have at your disposal are often the most effective.

So while Gray Young’s first full effort is not without its lulls, the majority of the songs make enough of an impact to look past them. It’s one big emotional release of an album, and despite its faults, it’s hard not to get washed along in the glistening waves of sound that Gray Young makes when it’s at its best.

Gray Young plays tomorrow night at Local 506 alongside the Appleseed Cast and An Horse. The show opens with Gray Young at 9 pm and costs $10.

– By Assistant Diversions Editor Jordan Lawrence

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