Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hella - The Young Friends


The Young Friends
Moodgadget Records.

SCQ Rating: 75%

Andrew McKee and Brant Stuns bonded over surf music, the sub-genre as well as the sandy dunes and rickety boardwalks that evoke its breezy tunefulness. Nothing calmed and invigorated these high school kids like a bike-trip to San Diego’s coastline, and although composed and recorded in a bedroom of the two’s desert city in Arizona, their mindset was always on the beach. So is Hella, the sun-bleached debut EP courtesy of Moodgadget Records that eschews formalities in favour of concise, addictive summer pop.

Fittingly, surf music only plays a part in The Young Friends’ multi-layered approach. From the opening slur of hazy keys and peppy drums, ‘Be My Baby’ introduces this pop duo as welders of chill-wave production and Vampire Weekend’s tight rhythms. The latter influence is especially evident in the opening seconds of single ‘Make Out Point’, with its tense but playful bassline, while its surf-abilly vibes and vocal haze screams summer evenings. What I particularly love about McKee’s voice – besides my impression that he resembles a Boys Don’t Cry era Robert Smith – is how his pronunciation and layered style stretches his vocals dreamily over the compact instrumentation. No matter how the songs might echo the casual cool of the Strokes on ‘North End’ or the Smiths-meets-African rhythm on ‘Riverside Kids’, those distant-call vocals web the whole of Hella into a song-cycle as nostalgic with yesterday as it is smitten with the eternal now.

While certainly a debut brimming with promise, it’s a shame that the whole venture lasts just short of twenty minutes. Such a meager running-time no doubt negates some of the impact Hella, at times, seems eager to cause among indie-circles, but what this EP may lack in presence it makes up for by never slipping up. If Hella is any indication, The Young Friends will be rubbing shoulders with their influences very soon.

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