Since becoming one of the dominant forms of modern entertainment, pop music has tried to compress the sound of summer into the confines of the three-minute song. The Beach Boys provided the blueprint for the “summer tune” by creating pop sketches that felt light like a mid-August breeze, but could subtly have the depth of the deepest ocean. Many have made attempts to harness that magic, with so few able to prevail. For every Brian Wilson there’s a Seals & Crofts or Don Henley with their “Summer Breeze” and “Boys of Summer” grabbing for nostalgic feelings with false nods to long-gone youthful exuberance. So, when a band comes along with not just the pop savvy of Brian Wilson, but an ear for the type of orchestration and song structure that made Wilson such an icon, it’s something of a minor miracle. While not quite to Wilson’s level yet, Young Dreams does show, on their debut album Between Places, that they have the foundation to reach those heights.
Summer permeates throughout the record, from the underwater cover to the Beach Boys-by-way-of-Animal Collective sound of the young group. Opener “Footprints” feels like a push into the deep end of the pool, with its kaleidoscope of sounds and beautiful vocal work from Chris Holm. In its five minutes and twenty-four seconds runtime, the song manages to continually expand just to the breaking point, before inching back from the edge. The second song, “Wounded Hearts” goes in the opposite direction, relying on mood and production to create an intoxicating number that continues to mine bright summer days for inspiration.
Between Places is a master course on indie pop production. Sounds come and go at random, with the 12-piece band fluctuating directions on a moment’s notice. Credit has to be given to the group’s producer, Matias Tellez, for making every tune on here feel like an entire soundtrack for the summer. The best and most exciting piece on the record comes in “The Girl That Taught Me to Drink and Fight,” a ten-minute opus detailing a drunken night out on the town. While the subject matter here is fun, it’s the band’s deft instrumental approach that really makes the tune. Ten minutes is a long time for any band, let alone a young pop band, to hold the attention of its audience. But, Young Dreams more than rises to the occasion here, proving itself as a band to keep an eye on.
If I have one minor complaint about Between Places,it’s that it’s not the most original record out there. The fantastic mix of The Beach Boys, Animal Collective, and The Avalanches is a great foundation for the band to build on, but it’s nothing that any music lover hasn’t heard before. With such a stunning array of songs though, it’s easy to ignore any shortcomings. This is an assuredly and immaculately produced album that is sure to be a favorite for years to come.