Self-Released 23 August 2011
It’s a Catch-22, more or less. You’re a buzz band that’s impressed the hipsters with an effective Publicity Machine. Or you’re an underground band that only a few are aware of, and those few tell as many of their friends as possible, and somehow, it’s still an open secret from the rest of the world. Where is the fine line that allows for the hipster dollars and the underground credibility for the true music fan? Rarely do we have both, and only a few friends have been able to do it: Regina Spektor, Kimya, Adam, and their Moldy Peaches, Elizabeth Harper and her Class Actress. Even Nicole Atkins. But then there are artists like Joie Dead Blonde Girlfriend, The Teenage Prayers, and Gloria Deluxe, brilliant musical creators, that cause me to shake my head and wonder why the rest of the world has not yet caught up to what the rest of us have always known.
Young Circles may be one of the few bands that manages that fine line. They are damn good and they appear to be an unsigned band (more on that below), and they have somehow managed to hire one of the best music publicity machines of the day to help. Listening to their latest, Jungle Habits, may take a little time to determine that fine line, but they do seem more interested in making music than being the next Flash In The Pan for that ubiquitous 15 seconds.
In their own home studio, Young Circles’ Jordy Asher and Jeff Rose recorded and produced their baby, JungleHabits and all of the band’s videos. The two have rounded out their live band with a few more hands, but it’s their very own creative brainstorm. It’s hardly acoustic or folk, though those elements and more are sometimes present, if you are gifted and listen for those pockets of familiarity. And yes, the influences are there but have been sublimated into their collective psyche, which is as it should be, given that most commercial radio airplay seems to be the proverbial snake eating its own tail.
The album opens with “Triangles” and begins with some light drones with the words slowly, lightly, melding in: “Lie up in let the feeling move ya/ A sound that threatens to consume ya”. It’s not exactly techno but it’s not exactly Indie rock, either. The lyrics, while sliding into the drones, the strings, and the drums, are ethereal and subsumed until the music and the lyrics unite into a down tempo electronica theme song. They are from Miami, and Miami is finally nurturing and developing more than just its native Techno scenes. And after all, where else would such a genre marriage seem so organic?
“Summer Noose” arrives by track three, almost like a laid-back summer sing-along cum death ballad that lightly hints at several themed songs from the Harry Smith Anthology Of American Folk Music where death is lamented, celebrated, regretted, and admitted before the execution and before the Divine. Elements slowly fill in and an internal dialogue ensues as the song arrives at a mild wall of sound that rounds out with an electronic-y twang as it bleeds into “Love Habits”.
“2012” and “Jangala” are the album’s anthems, connected by a similar melody of chaotic-like noise rock and found recorded elements from a steady techno beat. The two are practically Part 1 and part 2 of the same track, arriving ¾ of the way through the album. They also contain the most garage-rock like elements, possibly from the duo’s original album, the tracks that didn’t get scraped when they decided to try something completely different. The results are, by turns, inviting, intriguing, and infinitely danceable.
The album closes with “Changing,” the end of a creative output filled with several distinctive but similar alternative anthems that end too, too soon. It’s difficult to determine where one song ends and the next begins, melodically and thematically. The lyrics appear to be connected chapters in a larger internal autobiographical novel. Jungle Habits even feels like a concept album. And yet, the songs stand on their own while becoming more than the sum of their individual parts. However you listen, however you look at it, Young Circles and Jungle Habits deserve more than just the underground cred. But let’s keep this from the hipsters who seem to ruin everything they touch.
And in a final postscript, Young Circles just released “99%” in support of Occupy Wall Street with all proceeds donated to the movement. Pretty darn good song, too. They even name check Paris 1968, among others. Listen and donate here: http://youngcircles.bandcamp.com/album/ninety-nine-percent
4 October 2011