SCQ Rating: 80%
Never underestimate the importance of a record’s first track. Whatever waits within its opening seconds will have to jostle between listeners’ expectations, their biases, and do so without boring them stiff. The choice is greater than simply sequencing a dominant song for the best first impression; with this first song, you’re addressing the flakey demographic that samples thirty seconds of a full-length at a record store listening-post or an iTunes sample stream. A first track exhibits whether the music an artist makes is accessible or challenging, culturally indebted or revolutionary, and weighed in artistic merit or commercial dollars.
I’m reminded of the unfair pressure on first songs when “The Coast” sets Jennah Barry’s debut album ablaze, building from inaudibly plucked guitar notes to a wide-open chorus and evermore thunderous finale. The song handily kept my attention, as much for its compositional chops as for Barry’s natural approach to performance. Her voice carrying a vivid resemblance to Sarah Harmer’s aside, Barry’s tuneful voice sounds perfectly at home within intricately unique songs that defy easy categorization. A sneaky bass line forms the backbone of “Blackhole”, a short but sweet tune that looks wistfully upon feelings of isolation, while subsequent track “Honey” reduces the bass to a dripping Motown vibe accompanied only by some swelling strings. By the time “To Be Patient” unspools with the grace and swagger of a lost track from The Band, it’s difficult to argue that just about all of Barry’s choices are stunners. Her compositions have wonderful breathing room and their arrangements wisely eschew any extravagance that might clutter the momentum. From a strong opening to the title track’s frost-filled, poignant close, Young Men deserves much more than a thirty second sampling.