The title of the Portland, Oregon outfit HERS‘ latest LP, Youth Revisited, may at first pass suggest a mood of nostalgia. Such a simplistic take, however, all but dissipates as the first notes of the album begin. This first song, “Bad”, finds frontwoman and songwriter Melissa Amstutz hauntingly repeating, “I’ve been so bad.”
As the much-hyped debut LP by Syracuse’s Perfect Pussy has already demonstrated this year, there’s a real power in unflinching emotional examination. However, in contrast to the cut-and-paste sonic of Say Yes to Love, Youth Revisited‘s musical range is far more refined and wide-spanning.
The gentle opening passage of “C & S (Youth Revisited)” is reminiscent of Imogen Heap‘s delicate moments. The clean-toned guitars of “Big Bad” offer some sunlight amidst the album’s weighty personal exploration. Bluesy guitar rounds out the stomping album highlight “Independence Day”. These musical variations not only keep the record fresh sounding all throughout; they also add to the complexity of the stories Amstutz tells through these songs.
“I started writing songs for this record about five years ago, so it spans a pretty substantial amount of time,” says Amstutz, who wrote Youth Revisited following her queer awakening. “I experienced a lot of life changes during those years—getting divorced and coming out being the main ones—but I also moved four times, returned to school, graduated, began a new relationship, and was accepted into graduate school. At the end of the recording process, my life bore no resemblance to the life I led when I started. I think the energy that came from this transformative and chaotic time worked its way into the record. I ended up recording a lot of new vocal parts alone in my basement after we finished in the studio, and for me, that’s when it all came together. I spent a lot of time with the songs, with what I was feeling when I wrote them and what I felt now that I had more perspective. I really wanted to capture all of the emotions before, during, and after a complete upheaval of one’s life.”
Amstutz and the rest of the talented folks in HERS do more than live up to that goal. With its broad sonic range and emotional poignancy, Youth Revisited is a feast for those who prefer their singer/songwriters on the daring side.
Youth Revisited will be released on June 3rd.