Young Man: Beyond Was All Around Me

[2 June 2013]

By Justin Cober-Lake

Just a few years ago Colin Caulfield attracted attention with his YouTube covers of cuts by bands like Beach House, Animal Collective, and, most notably due to the response, Deerhunter. The Young Man EP that quickly followed felt like a rushed bedroom project, but college student Caulfield was still figuring out what he was doing and there seemed to be enough promise there to at least see what came next. What did come next was three full-length albums from 2011 to 2013, each one shaped as a concept album with the whole set playing as a trilogy. The latest, and apparently the last music to be released by Caulfield as Young Man, Beyond Was All Around Me shows Caulfield continuing his growth, expanding his atmospheres and working within more complex arrangements.

Boy was one guy in a dorm room doing his thing, but the Young Man has broadened considerably since then, and if the guiding vision is still Caulfield’s, the result sounds more like the output of a cohesive band and not a set of backing musicians. The string arrangements on the album get some attention, as much for existing as for their quality (and that’s not criticism of the arrangements, which are well done; we just seem to want to talk about them as contrast to the early, early years of 2010 rather than as arrangements). The strings are arranged by Ben Talmi and performed by musicians not technically part of Young Man. The increased collaboration and expanded roster of artists suggests Caulfield’s stretching himself and it generally pays off.

There are still missteps on the album. When the group most falters is when they most head off into Pink Floyd wanderings. They’re aware at least of the influence, even thanking the group in the album notes “for not suing us”. New drummer Darien Williams keeps “In Time” from going to far afield, but the track meanders for far too long, and loses focus in its spaciness. Around the four-and-a-half-minute mark, the song turns into an outtake from Dark Side of the Moon that would probably only work if listened to in a planetarium. The band falters in the little ways, too, as on the Caulfield number “Being Alone” which starts as a ditty and swirls to something that’s not powerful in its build or in its resonance.

More often, though, the band matches the album’s lyrical concerns with moving into adulthood with more interesting performances. “In a Sense” spreads itself out, yet the group’s patience pays off. There’s a nice use of space, and the drums advance the song with the instrumentalists provide texture and tones through their repetitions. This build resonates and develops almost a sonic maturity to go along with the singer’s realizations. “School” likewise uses its long running time to make a statement, merging loveliness with tension before releasing first into a swaying sort of rock and then to something with more drive. There’s a touch of a band like Elbow here, but Young Man doesn’t settle into an influence. At times like this, it’s apparent that Caulfield and his bandmates are moving on to new things, and there’s reason to be optimistic.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/171220-young-man-beyond-was-all-around-me/