[PSEUDO-BRIT POP] At times resembling a freshman's Intro to British Guitar Rock sampler—Ash exuberance, Muse grandeur, Travis' sheer love of melodicism—the Young Immortals' debut, When History Meets Fiction, apes the dynamics and propulsive sing-along rush of its more obvious inspirations. But the local trio's emulation is always in the service of a distinct vision.
The band has only been around a year or two, but a furious touring schedule, including a cross-country jaunt this summer, has instilled a preternatural tightness and meticulous perfectionism within its deceptively simple songcraft. It sounds clichéd, but most every track on the album could be a single. And the likelier selections (like "The Fever," available on iTunes and a Starbucks compilation) arrive overstuffed with subtle piano flourishes and vocal sub-hooks ordinarily the province of mid-career pop acts seeking to expand upon natural gifts, rather than relative beginners.
The lyrics haven't equally progressed, however. "Hot for Sarah" reads dimly literal, and the rhythm section too often tends toward a homogeneous morass. The vocals of singer-songwriter-guitarist Jacob Ray could overcome far greater failings, though. Rocking a choirboy fragility with resolve, depth of experience and a keening regret ever waiting on transcendence, his marvelously malleable range—teasing whisper, platinum falsetto, full-throated growl—makes him both a charismatic narrator, whether dissecting loves lost or arousing new conquests, and ubiquitous master of ceremonies, allowing the trio a fuller, richer sound.
Appropriately, the band seems most at home playing widescreen-appropriate epics. The sweeping choruses of "Unmistakable Day," for instance, beg for an arena, and the slow-building, relentlessly catchy "Think Happy" should've soundtracked this summer's drive-time. But even the seemingly shrugged-off tracks hint toward more intriguing directions: "The Money Won't Last," borne upon a minimal, bristling riff, finds Ray tunefully snarling none-too-original condemnations of an unfaithful paramour that fade to an acoustic bridge. Then, his suddenly angelic vocals transform a callow bitchfest into an elegiac lament before returning to an ever-more-spiteful aggression—painfully, hesitantly, helplessly naming the girl a whore.
That moment of abandon and unfiltered passion, through music seemingly engineered to unleash sinfully luxuriant endorphins, stands out amid an album of cautious pleasures. The members of the Young Immortals have clearly mastered their genre's techniques. They need merely allow a bit more of themselves through the polished frameworks, which will hopefully come with time. They are, after all, still young Immortals.
When History Meets Fiction