Starting at seven members, and often blossoming to as many as twelve, Norwegian troupe Young Dreams are capable of a big sound and its one that sounds every bit like a group with many members. Not only do they pack an overwhelming range of sounds into their songs but they fit into the lineage of 6+ members groups making soaring anthemic pop with an adventurous twist.
Most prominent however is the influence of The Beach Boys which permeates the basis of their songs, the collation of sunshine harmonies with schizophrenic stylistic shifts inspiring some great individual moments in songs which can be difficult to get a handle on.
Previous single ‘Fog of War’ captures the essence of the band well – the name “Young Dreams” seems like a manifesto as much as a moniker. The song’s hyperactive blend of neon keys, bursts of orchestration and strung-out vocals with lyrics like “There’s nothing here that’s clear to me” sounds like the wide-eyed optimism mixed with confusion of teenage years, all fluttering synths and palpitating heartbeats. The immediacy of it is clear here but the sprawling explorative nature of the album is similar too, and it’s genuinely exciting to hear a band who seem to think they can do it all. They make a decent attempt at condensing the large scope of their influences, but occasionally it overwhelms.
‘The Girl That Taught Me To Drink and Fight’ initially sounds like a Deerhunter song mashed up with the intricate string swells of Owen Pallet and the staggered drums make it sound pretty huge before slipping into tippy-tappy math guitars with shades of Beach House-style organs and harmonised vocals. This barely rests into its groove before it descends into a shapeless jam and finally finds its way back to the chorus about five minutes after leaving it. Among it all there are fleeting moments of beauty, but at eleven minutes long it’s a pop song trapped in the body of something else entirely.
In their most concentrated form though, like the tropical pop burst of ‘Dream Alone, Wake Together’, this band can be exhilarating in their measured combination of experimentation and crowd-pleasing hooks. Despite some awful lyrics about “needing a charge for my mobile phone” the jangling guitar of ‘First Days of Something’ is also quite the earworm. Closing track, the self-titled ‘Young Dreams’, is another example as the symphonic swells along side rolling drums and Matias Tellez’s gentle vocals create perfect sunset pop.
It’s arguably harsh to criticise a debut album for being too ambitious but it’s precisely that which will hold back this album from being one of the most talked-about of the year. With so much going on there are just not enough recurring hooks to keep listeners coming back. And for something that essentially aspires to be a pop album, that’s a problem. If you like your summer pop to keep you on your toes then this is definitely for you. Otherwise this is an impressively ambitious if somewhat misguided debut from a band well worth keeping tabs on.