Record Review: Young Widows’ In and Out of Youth and Lightness

Young Widows: In and Out of Youth and LightnessYoung Widows: In and Out of Youth and Lightness (Temporary Residence, 4/12/11)

Young Widows: “In and Out of Lightness”

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More than ever, Louisville’s Young Widows is teaching listeners to appreciate the quietness in post-punk.

Consider, for contrast, the slobbering borderline silliness of Pissed Jeans, or any other band that draws on a ton of distortion. At first listen, Young Widows might seem to have something missing. The vocals lead the songs but aren’t panicked or even immediately catchy. The guitars often walk an eerie line between clean and dissonant. The rhythm section — though hardly crude, if you’re paying attention — often favors a ceremonial plod.

In between, there’s a roomy silence, occasionally breached with a wandering guitar echo or backing vocal. But soon it stops feeling incomplete. That lurking silence, and the unresolved feeling that it creates, becomes the hook.

This was certainly in the mix on the band’s 2008 release, Old Wounds. On the new In and Out of Youth and Lightness, Young Widows draws more tension and slow-onset unease from the open (but by no means peaceful or settled) space that’s built into its songs. Appropriately, the best track on the album is called “The Muted Man.” It’s a portrait of self-repression and self-defeat. Evan Patterson‘s vocal delivery sometimes dodges the urgency of what he’s saying, but the lyrics on this song suit his style perfectly: “Seal up the cracks in my voice, and swallow the pity like rain.” It’s moving in spite of itself.

Don’t expect that kind of immediate impact throughout. This music isn’t lacking or avoiding anything but instead embraces the fullness of uncertainty. Opening track “Young Rivers” and closer “In and Out of Youth” set the tone. The first shows you how big and foreboding the open space could be, as the band works its way into a chorus full of exhaustion and dread. “Youth” runs at a similar pace for seven minutes and leaves you to ponder the phrase, “These wild dreams are done.”

Young Widows holds back a little less on a few of the album’s tracks, getting downright lighthearted for “Miss Tambourine Wrist” and flailing angrily against the silence with the twisty, chromatic guitar work of “White Golden Rings.” Still, you’d hardly put on this record just to rock out.

In and Out succeeds without giving listeners much to hold onto, not even the screechy jaggedness of noise rock or the hungry frustration that defines a lot of heavy music. In many ways, it’s a tough record to get to know. There’s something festering in there, and rarely does the band tackle it head on. It’s a methodical approach — not avoidance, which only amplifies the feeling of unrest. From the weird twang and Black Heart Procession vibes of “Right in the End” to the enveloping “Lean on the Ghost,” this album creates moments that beam your own confused, frightened humanity back at you.

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