SGL002, the second edition in the Self Group Live Series features a recording of SG's oldest alumni and founding artist, Southerly.
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.
Southerly's 2010 release, the Champion Of The Noisy Negativists EP (Self Group) was a swooning, eerie, beautiful, morose and uplifting soundscape that was a largely instrumental affair, using vocals as additional layers rather than the music's guide. It took bold steps beyond the lush, orchestral pop of Southerly's critically praised 2007 debut on Portland, OR based Greyday Records, Storyteller and the Gossip Columnist. That album was hailed for its full orchestra and horn arrangements bolstering Krueger's intimate singing style, consistently earning near-perfect marks from critics. Southerly began in 2001 as a solitary DIY effort written and recorded by Krueger himself, who also is a seasoned recording engineer, label manager and professional booking agent. His debut album, Best Dressed and Expressionless was released in 2004. Southerly became a full band in 2006 for Storyteller and on Youth the lineup includes Krueger, Eli Savage and Cory Gray.
Youth is not a "mature" album in the cliched sense. Rather, and more importantly, it embodies exactly everything that the best music can be: a comforting companion to our multitude of hopes and fears throughout all stages of life. Krueger never professes to provide answers, but he's asking the right questions.