Following a pair of meaty, abrasive noise rock records in 2006’s Settle Down City and 2008’s Old Wounds, Louisville-based thrashers Young Widows could have very well settled into a groove and let their burly chops continue to do the talking. The formula worked well enough the first couple of times, so why mess with a good thing? But just a cursory examination of the tracklist to new album In and Out of Youth and Lightness quickly reveals that something is a little different this time around. Six of the album’s nine tracks stretch beyond five minutes long, three of those five stretching longer than six minutes long. Track lengths being merely circumstantial, the concrete evidence of a shift in Young Widows’ approach lies in first track “Young Rivers.” A steady thud of percussion beats out a lumbering path for atmospheric guitar to float above, an ominous, delay-treated specter rather than a fuzzy, malicious beast.
Young Widows haven’t abandoned their once prevalent heaviness, but they’ve harnessed it in very different ways on In and Out of Youth and Lightness. There are far fewer moments of direct, pummeling intensity, and more songs that stretch and let in more space between burly snare thwacks and distorted bass groans. At a faster pace, “Lean on the Ghost” could have been a merciless noise rock monster, but here it’s a slower, psychedelic number heavier on ambience than abrasion. “In and Out of Lightness” harbors a greater intensity, its stoner rock boogie bassline building up into trippier, heavier riffage. And “The Muted Man” quickens its pace, but drops some of the immenseness of previous tracks, settling instead into an exotic groove.
Those faster, harder, more immediate rock numbers do still arise on Youth and Lightness, if less frequently. “Future Heart” is the first of these, a chugging stoner rock stomp reminiscent of Queens of the Stone Age, while “Miss Tambourine Wrist” builds a wall of distortion on top of a series of moody, minor key chords. Yet by and large, In and Out of Youth and Lightness is an album of delayed gratification. Its slowly crawling compositions offer a heady and satisfying psych-rock experience to those willing to forgo a shorter punk rock fix. But those expecting an immediate burst of visceral post-hardcore would do well to revisit the band’s first two albums before exploring this diversion into the band’s deeper and more cavernous nooks and crannies.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.