Young Jesus - Welcome to Conceptual Beach Music Album Reviews

Fusing influences from improv and minimalist composition with its customarily exploratory post-rock, the L.A. band sounds more assured than ever: playful, funky, even willing to flex a bit.

“Every record needs a thesis, needs a crisis or campaign,” John Rossiter croons on “Root and Crown,” the introductory single for Young Jesus’ fifth album, Welcome to Conceptual Beach. Over the past several years, Rossiter’s “Conceptual Beach”—an idea he has likened to his “internal landscape”—has taken on elements of all three. Rossiter initially used it as a fictional framework for personal journaling while he transitioned from Midwestern slacker to erudite Los Angeles bookstore clerk. He created a zine bearing the title during his first tour with the current Young Jesus lineup, in 2016, then used the name for an event series where attendees watercolored and discussed local politics over improvisatory jams—a proper incubator for 2017’s exploratory S/T and its muscular follow-up, The Whole Thing Is Just There. Both albums were collections of open-ended post-rock that teased a future masterpiece while challenging the idea of canonization itself. Welcome to Conceptual Beach marks a soulful fusion of their emo past and heady present, invoking art rock and improvisation while sounding like nothing else.
In the past, Young Jesus tapped into the spiritual and theoretical constructs of astral jazz and minimalist composition, but the sounds were outside of their grasp. Opener “Faith” is everything Young Jesus songs are—elliptical, brimming with ideas, about seven minutes long—and a lot of things they never were before: playful, funky, even willing to flex a bit. It’s Purdie shuffle and Pink Floyd, Auto-Tune croak and plaintive prayer, Santa Cruz acid rock and Laurel Canyon folk.

Both S/T and The Whole Thing Is Just There felt like products of an initial burst of unbridled creative momentum—the work of a band passionately pursuing new approaches to compositional form, but not always concerned with translating that excitement to people not in Young Jesus. In contrast, each song on Welcome to Conceptual Beach has an accessible core to which it can return, allowing Young Jesus to scrutinize their exploratory impulses without lapsing into fussiness or formlessness. Where most bands might use a chorus or bridge to signify a change in direction, Young Jesus decrescendo, leaving blank space for mindfulness. It’s at these points where the marathon jams, open-ended live shows, and philosophical woodshedding transform into telepathic communication, signaling where the song might go next.

Young Jesus consistently prefer to veer from established courses toward previously unexplored vistas: Rossiter modulates from mystical incantations to motivational speaking over the span of “Meditations,” harmonizes over breezy yacht rock in “Pattern Doubt,” and stumbles into a bustling jazz club during “Lark.” Occasionally, they’ll break down a jam into constituent parts and rebuild with slightly different angles: The melodic motifs and themes of decay and rebirth on “(un)knowing” reimagine Radiohead’s “Let Down” as dejected slowcore until Rossiter vows to grow wings with startling, octave-bounding vocal leaps. “Lark” remixes the regal procession of its first half into an elegiac post-emo coda, the type that once earned Young Jesus comparisons to American Football when no one really knew what to call them.

But Young Jesus’ most profound achievement isn’t that the album sounds more like jazz fusion than indie rock. Rather, it’s Rossiter’s continued willingness to reckon with all phases of his life through a lyrical vulnerability that’s rare in their headier and often instrumental influences. “I felt the only life’s the one you lead alone,” he confesses on “Magicians,” looking back on a painful period of living too deeply in his own mind. When he muses, “Every critic’s got some things they’re not proud of,” Rossiter includes and indicts himsel; a typical interview finds him scrutinizing the relics of his aimless early twenties that remain on streaming services for posterity—for example, 2010’s Young, Innocent & Hairy, a reflection of getting shit-faced drunk and listening to Bright Eyes and the Good Life in his parents’ garage, bearing no resemblance to the guy who actually got signed to Saddle Creek.

Though Young Jesus’ trajectory is frequently viewed through Rossiter’s personal evolution, each member of the quartet shares a vision for continual learning: Respectively, they footnote interviews with reading syllabi, contribute to prestigious literary journals, and teach college courses on Sun Ra. “It’s not enough to hate the world we live within,” Rossiter screamed at the end of The Whole Thing Is Just There’s “Deterritory.” Now, in every expression of hard-won serenity, Rossiter reflects on the struggles he has documented for years, asking questions that were once seen as frivolous, insular, or even pretentious: How can music shared among a small community be a model for society? What is the purpose of art to begin with? Welcome to Conceptual Beach has the answer: to conceive of a better future by embracing the unknown.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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Young Jesus - Welcome to Conceptual Beach Music Album Reviews Young Jesus - Welcome to Conceptual Beach Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Tuesday, August 25, 2020 Rating:

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