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Gray Young

Bonfire

(Self-released; US: 19 Feb 2013; UK: 19 Feb 2013)

We like to think of post-rock as something that expands the limitations of the standard rock song. This is why Explosions in the Sky soundtrack football films. They make larger than life, staggeringly beautiful sounds. But what if a band took all the heft and expanse and condensed it with sharp pop sensibilities? Well, then you’d have Gray Young and you’d have what should be the surprise rock record of 2013, Bonfire. Opener “Canopy Reflected” shows the band’s knack for blistering guitars, soaring atmospherics, and impressive rhythms, but they also pare it back to lean, cutting octave runs late in the track. “Strange Comfort”, the album’s longest song, takes the slow build approach we might expect, but its use of space and the sheer chaos it launches into—borderless, thrilling—is bracing to hear.


The band can also tighten up on propulsive numbers like “Into the Tall” or the moody “Hidden Leaves” as much as they can drift into the more patient ambient moves on “Quiet Gift” or “Smoke Signal”. Rarely does a band achieve this kind of sonic size without losing immediate emotion in the process. Gray Young shows all the reach of arena concerts with all the spit-on-the-concrete fury of basement shows, and displays a maturity and complexity both those venues so often lack. As if this all weren’t impressive enough, they hit all these myriad moods and textures—sliding fluidly from one to another — in just over a half-hour. Gray Young shows you don’t have to expand in length to expand in power. Sometimes the biggest statements are the most concise. Bonfire proves that.

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Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.


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