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It’s common hyperbole to boast of a songwriter’s newfound “maturity” with each new album, as if it were hallmark of perfection. With Southerly’s third full length Youth, Portland, OR’s dark-pop auteur Krist Krueger takes on the very notion of earned perspective through age & experience. Youth itself is a poignant exploration of life’s varying stages of uncertainty and self-deception. Likewise, musically it explores shades of song structure with equal measures of childlike wonder and nuanced pop expertise.

The title track pits a delightfully simple nursery rhyme vocal melody over droning two-chord guitars and an elegantly simple piano line that builds to a gallop as Krueger warily sings, “a child with no remorse/ a villain on his course / it’s youth / it’s youth / confident and free.” There’s an equal sense of hope and foreboding in both his voice and the song’s somber tone that fully accentuates the song’s impact. “All Abandoned” pits an insistent acoustic guitar refrain alongside a stately piano phrase with dark aplomb reminiscent of The National or Angels of Light. Elsewhere, elements of Greg Sage’s effect-laden guitar lines in Portland legends The Wipers and hints of New Zealand kiwi-pop (ranging from The Clean to The Veils) permeate Southerly’s songs with a marriage of anthemic force and understated grace. Throughout, Krueger’s mastery of infectious melody, ominous drone, sparing song structure and astute lyricism givesYouth its dramatic impact.

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