Young Gun Silver Fox are musical sorcerers. On West End Coast, they've fashioned a fresh and modern sound that summons one of the most vibrant and influential epochs in popular music. The ten songs herein pay homage to 1970s Los Angeles, a golden age of recording that infused the pop charts and FM airwaves with a blend of soulful voices, immaculate melodies, stellar musicianship, and sophisticated studio technology.
The forces behind Young Gun Silver Fox are Andy Platts and Shawn Lee. It was inevitable that two of the UK's most prolific and versatile pop music linguists would one day collaborate on a studio project that crystallized many of their creative strengths. West End Coast fuses the talents they've mastered in their respective careers, from Andy's role as frontman and co-founder of Mamas Gun to Shawn's numerous self-produced projects with AM and his own Ping Pong Orchestra. The authentic hybrid of styles on West End Coast is further steeped in the fact that Shawn, the team's silver-haired Silver Fox, is an American who resided in LA for seven years before relocating to London. "Speaking for myself, this is an an album I've wanted to make for some time and Andy was the only person I felt I could make it with," he says. "Andy understands the classic melodic pop side as well as the soul funky side that was absolutely vital to the creation of this music. What a voice!" The admiration is mutual. "A lot of people today can claim to be ‘multi-instrumentalists’ but Shawn truly is a multi-hat-wearing-cat," says Andy, the Young Gun of the duo. "Musically, his ear and ridiculous encyclopedic musical brain continues to floor me. Some of the music he generated on this album was so special I really had to dig deep to do it justice in a songwriting sense."
An undeniable synergy informs Young Gun Silver Fox's maiden voyage. "Andy came up with the brilliant album title," Shawn explains. "My studio is in the West End of London and the music has a really strong West Coast influence so meld that together and BAM, there it is!" Indeed, West End Coast evokes some of the defining SoCal pop-rock classics of the 1970s. "I think there is a profound love and respect for records made at that particular time," says Andy. "There’s a certain richness and sheen in those records which left a really high watermark in record-making. There’s no doubt that creatively and sonically it came from an almost exclusively American place but I think we have an even quirkier mix going on thanks to where and how we made West End Coast. There’s a definite British influence in there too somewhere which only serves to make it more distinctive in my opinion."
Recorded and mixed at Lee's Trans-Yank Studio in London, West End Coast straddles several sensibilities that are united by the duo's impeccable songwriting. Each song is like a post card from their unique musical universe. Album opener "You Can Feel It" sets the tone with a soundscape that conjures the vastness of California's Pacific Coast Highway and a cool ocean breeze blowing through the chorus. London's West End sets the scene for "Emilia," with a little Sunset Strip flash fuelling the song's high octane grooves. "Better" casually sways from one chord progression to another as layers of different instrumentation are stirred into the mix and bring the song to a fever pitch. A strand of Philly-inspired soul threads through the DNA of "Distance Between Us" while "See Me Slumber" serves up a three-minute reverie of cascading melodies.
The latter tune's coda sends the song into a whole other kind of orbit before the infectiously tuneful "In My Pocket" glimmers like a pot of pop music gold. In fact, little sonic treasures abound on West End Coast. A vigorous horn arrangement is among several attractions on "So Bad," which packs a carnival of dazzling ideas into four minutes. Elsewhere, the central question in "Spiral" — "If your heart could only speak, what would it say now?" — is accompanied by slinky and sensual cadences. "Saturday" operates in two gears, one that snaps and crackles and another that curves and coasts, powering the song to its swift conclusion. Like waves crashing beneath a midnight sky, orchestral elements swell and recede amidst the more saturnine backdrop of "Long Way Back." As the last note fades, the curtain falls on Young Gun Silver Fox's series of ten vividly produced vignettes.
Though West End Coast clearly echoes the 1970s, it's 21st century technology that helped the duo achieve a remarkable cohesion on the album. "Except for the basic rhythm tracks on 'See Me Slumber' the whole recording process of the album was made remotely over the Internet," Shawn states. "It's indicative of the age in which we live," Andy continues. "Generally how it worked was that Shawn would send me completely finished instrumental tracks on which he played everything. I would in turn create the melodies, lyrics, and record the vocals and backing vocals, maybe the odd keyboard or guitar part too." The set's opening cut might best exemplify Young Gun Silver Fox's particular approach in developing the songs. "'You Can Feel It' was essentially written in four audio text messages," Andy notes. "I think that represents the communication shorthand Shawn and I have between us but also shows how we're using technology to capture inspiration and create from it."
West End Coast underscores that Andy Platts and Shawn Lee are more than artists, they're auteurs whose shared vision advances the contemporary music conversation. "I make a lot of records," says Shawn Lee. "I make records I wanna hear. West End Coast is an album I have never made before but have always wanted to. It was a challenge and it was a tremendously enjoyable process to boot." Andy Platts concludes, "I think we are just really good at passing the baton to one another and just doing what we do. Zoning in, and being completely at the mercy of instinct, where those feelings of joy and satisfaction reign supreme." In the world Young Gun Silver Fox have created on West End Coast, every song leads to another sphere. No compass needed for this journey, just drop the stylus and get lost in the music.
Christian John Wikane
(New York City / May 2015)
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