Album Review: Young Man—”Beyond Was All Around Me”

By Maria Sokulsky-Dolnycky

Young Man, the charming dream-pop five-piece based in Chicago, has been busy these past few years, releasing a string of albums within a relatively short timeframe. Beyond Was All Around Me marks the final tome in the Young Man trilogy, its predecessors being 2011’s Ideas of Distance and last year’s Vol. 1. Each subsequent album moves further and further away from the bedroom-pop sounds of frontman Colin Caulfield’s 2010 solo escapade, Boy.

In this final installment, the song-writing has matured, both thematically and sonically. Just as the title (and album cover) suggests, this record feels expansive and contemplative, like standing on a cliff’s edge and gazing out upon a wide open desert or canyon. The melodies soar and the instrumentation glides right along with them. This seems appropriate, as this record feels like a send-off; acknowledging the past, but at the same time, moving on and starting a new chapter.

That’s not to say that Caulfield has forgotten his roots altogether. “Scrape On The Knee”, with its blend of intertwining guitar lines and brief appearance of Caulfield’s signature swelling cathedral-window harmonies, is vintage Young Man; speaking of childhood afflictions, it feels like it could belong on Boy. However, in the plaintive and lilting “Waterford”, Caulfield muses “Lately I’ve been trying to remember all the things that got me here, and lately I’ve been looking to the past to understand the memories I recall.”, and later, in the poignant “My Days”, he sings “So long, it’s what I need, some time to breathe and move on.” Simultaneously conclusive and retrospective, these lines touch upon the general feeling that this record brings forth; a melancholic look back, but also a steadfast glance towards the horizon of the future.

Beyond Was All Around Me has an easy, effortless feel to it; the songs glide by and flow seamlessly into one another. Even the album’s more raucous cuts have an air of cool, calm intensity. The record’s lead single, “In A Sense”, is tinged with an airy melancholy that’s grounded by quirky, tantalizing percussion, while the romping “In Time” sounds like a cosmic rodeo, racing around on horseback while staring out across a Martian desert. In contrast, many of the other tunes drip and ooze a glaze of lush orchestration and lyrical strings, which play a prominent role on the album. The record plays out like a story, building momentum and tension in the first half, then pouring on the poignancy and sentimentality at the halfway mark, the stripped-down, fluttery “Being Alone”, and subsequently continuing to wind down as the album draws to a close.

This album’s a bit of a grower, but what ultimately prevails is Caulfield’s uncanny ability to craft straight up stone-cold delicious pop songs; the gorgeous infectious melodies will have you gladly coming back for more. Overall, Beyond Was All Around Me is a mighty fine way to bid adieu.

Listen to: “In A Sense”, “Josie”, “Being Alone”, “Waterford”

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