PopMatters home | short takes home | archivesPopMatters Music Short Takes
The Carolines, Youth Electronics (self-released)
The refreshing thing about hearing Youth Electronics is that it's as clear as the nose on your face that there's absolutely no hidden agenda or deeper meaning to the Carolines' music than the desire to have fun, entertain, and write some extremely catchy, bright tunes. Amongst the ultra serious, we-want-to-change-the-world bands, there has to be a place for these purveyors of sophisticated, '70s-influenced AM radio pop. The Portland, Oregon five-piece stake such a claim throughout Youth Electronics, the band's second self-released album, and although the band has a long way to go to achieve its ultimate goals, they have already been seen with all the right people -- shows with such jangle-pop luminaries as Gin Blossoms and Imperial Teen have been followed by a performance at EMP Seattle, during the annual Pop Music Studies Conference. Songs like delicious opener "Lonely Last Summer" have a terrific effervescence and buzz, and confirm the influence of timeless melodies and sounds such as the Beach Boys and the Beatles. But the Carolines are no copycats, as there's a contemporary edge to these tunes that sits nicely alongside their unmistakable classic roots and provides a unique take on a genre often populated by identical-sounding bands. "Only What You Want" is just as catchy, neatly encapsulating the dynamics of the band and the flawless vocals of Aaron Trueb. "Just Like the Sun" reveals a hint of Lennon in his voice, but apart from here, it's a consistently bright and fresh delivery, as emphasised on the excellent "Columbo", which has shades of Ben Folds. Driven by a piano undercurrent and Nathan Trueb's (Aaron's brother) lead guitar, the song is perhaps the best example of the Carolines' sound, and even the slightly downbeat lyrics fail to weigh down a wonderfully executed tune.
Songwriting duties are mainly split between the Trueb brothers, and while fellow band member Nate Purscelly often gets a look in too, the sibling's contributions are the most memorable in a general climate of breezy pop sensibilities. A case in point is "Blue & Black", a muscular sounding effort that recalls the way in which Bleu beefs up his pop-influenced songs and contains some insightful lyrics: "Alone I sit / Loneliness ringing in my ear / Retrospect dissects the painstaking life of 18 years". Album closer, "Waste Time", also shows there's more to this band than sticky sweet harmonies. Youth Electronics may be self-released, but even if the Carolines sign with a specialized indie label (which is the intention by all accounts), it is doubtful the clear, crisp production job by Tim Harmon could be bettered. It really puts the final flourish on an album that is a testament to the band's commitment to quality, and although it may be nearing winter as I write this review, the Carolines make it seem like summer all year round.