Review Summary: Entertaining and packed with energy, Youngblood Hawke shoots out of the cannon with an over-the-top debut that will please everyone and genuinely impress nobody.
Everything about Youngblood Hawke screams “the next big thing”, from the ridiculous sense of excitement that explodes out of their songs to the sleek and shiny production that has caused a goddamn frenzy in the world of synth-pop. Wake Up
is a sensationalized debut, channeling the tune sense and pure elation of bands such as Phoenix and Passion Pit into something that is, quite simply, brilliant fun. It does not fuse genres in any groundbreaking or innovative way, and there’s a good chance that in a couple of years we might even forget that this album exists. However, it’s here right now and it possesses quite an impressive list of over-the-top anthems to dominate your local radio for the remainder of the year. That alone makes them worth a casual listen, if for no other reason just to see where all of the hype is emanating from.
As with many records that share Wake Up
’s exuberant qualities, the individual tracks are largely hit-or-miss. Obvious standouts such as ‘We Come Running’, ‘Say Say’, and ‘Stars’ anchor the album’s bid for catchiness, while attempts to branch out into atmospheric territory are (for the most part) laughably bad, falling way short of the Shins-like style that they aspire for. This is nothing new, as we’ve witnessed innumerable trend-pleasing bands throw everything that they have into a couple of singles in hopes of snagging the mass media’s attention. While Youngblood Hawke is a cut above those bands, they still don’t demonstrate the artistry to conceive a masterpiece or the musicianship to craft a genuinely appreciable instrumental work. Wake Up
is glam pop – all glitz with minimal substance. However, for better or worse, they’ve embraced that niche...and as some of the better tracks on Wake Up
would indicate, they have the potential to become one of the best bands in a scene that’s fast on the rise. ‘Danny Boy’, which sounds like it could have been a lost MGMT track off of Oracular Spectacular, is the kind of non-hit that Youngblood Hawke needs more of. It employs subtle, dreamy keyboards and falsetto verses that actually outshine the chorus, making for a fascinating listen that doesn’t become stale after the first several run-throughs. Opener ‘Rootless’ is another vital track, infusing Wake Up
with a sense of euphoric excitement that travels like shock waves throughout the entirety of the record. Unfortunately, there are too few songs that play a supporting role to mega-hits like ‘We Come Running’, giving us an end result that is as uneven as it is exhilarating.
Youngblood Hawke is certainly part of an ever-growing movement towards electronic, synth-driven indie pop. To some people, the very notion of indie evolving into one of the most accessible, mainstream genres around is nauseating. But to those who are either too enthralled by the glamour of recent trends, too naive to appreciate subtlety, or just too happy to give a damn what umbrella term a specific type of music falls under, Wake Up
brings a lot to the table. Following in the footsteps of bands like Phoenix and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Youngblood Hawke is the kind of rowdy sibling that doesn’t like to be ignored. It won’t be long before they come bursting into the spotlight, and that time may not even wait until they release another album. Such is the nature of pop music that is front-and-center; it puts everything on the table all at once. Youngblood Hawke may never be as well respected as the artists that pioneered their trails for them, but they do have the potential to be “the next big thing” in a here-today-gone-tomorrow musical climate. For now, that’s their life expectancy...to go beyond that, they’ll have to figure out a way to blaze a few new paths of their own.