Vansire
Angel Youth


4.5
superb

Review

by Rudy K. STAFF
September 27th, 2018 | 20 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Sometimes the art heals.

Growing up in Florida and living my entire adult life in Los Angeles, the concept of changing seasons is a foreign one for me. Every summer burns swollen and hot until, rather abruptly, it’s not. Spring is a quick cup of coffee that you don’t realize is over until the sun is still up when you leave the office. I imagine that to Josh Augustin and Sam Winemiller, the Minnesota duo that make up dream-pop outfit Vansire, this is an equally absurd state of affairs. Angel Youth, their stunning sophomore LP, would seem to agree. It’s a paean to shifting moods, an emotional growth and decay. Augustin sings in a vocoder coat that makes every lyric sound at once lilting and freighted with meaning. “About the World” sleepwalks through a winter where the night lasts twice as long as the day, the only constant four walls and the FM signal. The narrator’s melancholy is perfectly, painfully distilled into “Brown Study,” where the emptiness of a road trip sets the scene, frozen rust belt interstates flying by with memories of an East Coast romance to keep warm. On the wistful, shimmery title track, Augustin even gives my home a shoutout as the stereotypically empty ideal the rest of the country sees it as: “Oh, is it self-hate" I wish I was in L.A. / far from all the roads we knew / unworried where we’re going through.” Angel Youth recognizes with a smile that old adage of greener grass is rarely true. How it separates itself from its peers is in the craftsmanship with which it delivers this message.

The albums that have always tended to stick with me are those where you can tell the artist took care to craft an album that works just as well as a functioning narrative, with a beginning, middle, and end, as it does a collection of songs: Source Tags & Codes; You Forgot It In People; Blood Cultures’ Happy Birthday, my 2017 album of the year. Angel Youth’s 17 (!) tracks fit snugly alongside those favorites, although its influences are quite distinct, strains of dream pop, shoegaze, backpack rap, and even snippets of jazz and ambient that are blended fluidly throughout. It’s a carefully produced and mastered – entirely by Augustin and Winemiller – holistic experience that make all the details so easy to miss, like how the analysis of self-doubt in “Halcyon Age” ends with Augustin telling the listener “you can find me ‘round / in a despondent way / in a study best called brown” before launching into “Brown Study.” That latter track, which is named after a condition where one is so lost in thought as to be unaware of one’s surroundings, is a fitting thesis for the record: a reverie brought on by miles of separation, a dream of love in New York City. Angel Youth is preoccupied with questions of distance, emotional and physical. “I never wanna be alone,” sings guest vocalist Mellow Fellow to open “Lonely Zone,” but time renders that shortsighted: “Dreams fall far from the ocean floor / while years roll by in the driftless north / how inexorably all things fade / and still half hoping that somehow everything can turn out ok.” It’s telling that the title track revolves around that universal dream of dropping all your shit to travel the world in a band, a fantasy repeatedly punctured by reality: “Earth’s a set and life’s the movie screen / and every dream that you have in-between / they’ll fade with every frame you see.”

It’s impressive how an album where fully half the songs feature one guest or another – Brainfeeder’s Jeremiah Jae, Canadian singer-songwriter Floor Cry, Fog Lake, and Midwestern rappers like Guilty Simpson and Chester Watson all contribute here – nevertheless maintains such a singular identity. Tracks like the aforementioned “Lonely Zone” and the apologetic “Set Piece” successfully mix and match these different voices with remarkably deft production that caters to each individual talent while keeping the record’s cloudy vibe intact. Watson’s verse on “Star Catcher” paints with the same vivid imagery and emotional despair as Augustin’s evocative work elsewhere, and “Nice to See You Again’s” atmospheric swells nicely enlarge the canvas for Augustin and Floor Cry to play off each other. It’s a compliment to Vansire’s skills as producers that Angel Youth and its cast interlock so smoothly rather than end up as an ambitious puzzle, missing pieces here and there.

Vansire work best, however, when it’s just the two of them and the genuine feelings – more instinctual than intellectual – their songwriting engenders. On “Halcyon Age,” Augustin explores his self-consciousness most directly, alluding to Daniel Johnston and John Cage in a naked examination of his own concerns about musical validation that are impossible to separate from his questioning of himself as a worthwhile romantic partner. “Does that mean it’s done in vain / if no one really cares / I’m back to acting strange … If there’s any chance that we’d still hang out / we could detail dreams while we stare at passing clouds.” “Halcyon Age” is a brutally honest critique anyone in the creative industries can sympathize with, but Angel Youth is generally more interested in celebrating some questions that can never really be answered: love, nostalgia, purpose, what exactly you’re supposed to be doing or where you should be going in that weird twilight zone between independence for yourself and responsibility for another. “Synth Man” says it best: “Have you been dreaming or eyeing car wheels / a cryptic message on how your heart feels / cause sometimes the art heals.”




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user ratings (7)
Chart.
4
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
klap
Staff Reviewer
September 27th 2018


11979 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/vansire-624239522



Bandcamp: https://vansire.bandcamp.com/



Mitski probably still my aoty, but damn is this close

JesperL
September 27th 2018


312 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

really glad this finally got a (great) review, this was my main summer album this year.

budgie
September 27th 2018


6079 Comments


wtf did vansire put out a new album?

Gyromania
September 27th 2018


25915 Comments


Ooh

neekafat
September 27th 2018


12984 Comments


Should throw this in my cram list

SowingSeason
Moderator
September 27th 2018


28384 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

damn this is really pleasant

Digging: John Nolan - Abendigo

klap
Staff Reviewer
September 27th 2018


11979 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Neek, yes



Sowing thatta boyyyy

klap
Staff Reviewer
September 27th 2018


11979 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Also props to the Sputnik user who put this on one of their lists and turned me into these guys. Sadly I forgot the name but they are in my heart always

SowingSeason
Moderator
September 27th 2018


28384 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

It was JesperL:

https://www.sputnikmusic.com/list.php?memberid=1072663&listid=182848#1

klap
Staff Reviewer
September 27th 2018


11979 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

That’s my guy

JesperL
September 28th 2018


312 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

haha you're welcome!

Speed512
October 1st 2018


199 Comments


Best album/ artist I’ve found through Sputnik in a long while. Great review!

AdolfChrist
October 15th 2018


17944 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

cool, didnt know this got a review.

Digging: Devil Master - Inhabit The Corpse

budgie
October 15th 2018


6079 Comments


nice bump adolf, JUST finished listening to reflections & reveries
this came in the mail but i haven't listened to it yet

AdolfChrist
October 15th 2018


17944 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this is very noticeably better imo, im excited for you.

budgie
October 19th 2018


6079 Comments


alright this is one of the biggest disappointments
i really hate it.


AdolfChrist
October 19th 2018


17944 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

wow, i did not see that coming.

budgie
October 19th 2018


6079 Comments


really? seems like a 90 degree turn from the rolling, driftless north (which i'm listening to now and loving as i always do)

the first two releases will hold me over forever and never get old

AdolfChrist
October 19th 2018


17944 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Rolling Driftless North is great, i thought their first full length was decent but forgettable and had no replay value. I think this is the best thing theyve put out so far.

budgie
October 19th 2018


6079 Comments


to each his own no doubt, reflections & reveries is one of the most addicting albums i have



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