‘Recently Added’ to My iTunes: Conditions – Fluorescent Youth

‘Recently Added’ to My iTunes

Conditions – Fluorescent Youth

One of our favorite music bloggers is back again. Clay Smith, vocalist of the always entertaining Sleep Serapis Sleep, is here to author a new series on the Showasis Blog called ‘Recently Added’. Clay will take us through what’s new in his iTunes and share some of the most candid and insightful album reviews that you’re going to find on the web.

On playlists with: Saosin, Thrice, Anberlin

I don’t mean to undermine the success of truly deserving artists, but it goes without saying that there is “marketing for music” and “music for marketing”. Far be it from me to say which among us are the body snatchers of mainstream musical integrity (I’m looking at you, Nickelback). But, I always go out of my way to find real expression. From all this blogspot banter about the ever-pejorative “radio-rock”, I guess I’m not alone. And tuning into FM-radio, it is no wonder that the modern music fan is so desperate to cut the umbilical cord of mass-media and rampage unchecked through the vicissitudes of cyberspace.

Enter: Conditions. My first discovery of this Richmond-based group was either a total fluke or the result of divine intervention by the gods of the internet, as I was mistakenly linked to their Myspace page late 2009. Luckily, I was in just such a mood to go with it, and it turned out to be quite the happy accident. I downloaded their latest EP (let’s say legally), was impressed, and made it a point to follow their career since.

It turned out that mine wasn’t the only head the young group managed to turn, as Fluorescent Youth, their first full-length, found its way into the very capable hands of Goodfight Records (founded by ex-Ferret Records owner, Carl Severson) and was released this past summer.

And what a release it is. Core fans and first-time-listeners alike should expect no disappointments here, as there is not a whole lot not to like about Fluorescent Youth. Conditions returns with its usual blend, that is, radio-friendly rock with something of a post-post-hardcore twist, mixing emotional dynamics, catchy choruses and effects-driven leads reminiscent of Thrice’s The Artist and The Ambulance. Although this sound is not a terribly original idea (ie. Saosin’s self-titled), Conditions manages to come away sounding somewhat comparable, and not like an all-out larceny. They also know how to take a simple power chord and turn it into a chorus that will inhabit your mind for weeks at a time, perhaps more so than the Saosin boys. But what really earns the band’s buzz is the style of vocalist Brandon Roundtree, whose delivery absolutely drips with sincerity.

Lyrically, the album boasts great variety throughout, with songs that inspire (“Better Life”), come clean (“When It Won’t Save You”), or just haunt your dreams forever (“Comfort Far Away”). Though, some tracks do hit home a little harder than others. The chorus of “… Made Ghosts” seems rather trite in comparison to that of the bolder “Natural Competition”. But, I do appreciate how well the record does inspirational without making me feel like I’m watching Aladdin. I also had no idea how badass a poppy-rock song could be until I heard “Miss America”, in which Brandon very unabashedly calls out against America’s vanity and superficial inclinations.

For as pumped as I am on the new record, it is ironic that my favorite track is actually the revamped “Keeping Pace With Planes”, which benefits considerably from its latest studio experience. And, along with a rerecorded “Illuminati, it details the evolution of the band, from its origins to date.

All in all, Fluorescent Youth is as polished of an effort as any of the genre’s heavy-hitters. Brandon knocks most of these tracks out of the park, albeit with an occasional stumble. In both production and musicianship, this is as solid as a contemporary debut rock album gets. And with such mainstream accessibility, you wouldn’t be ashamed to bring these boys home to meet Ma.

Should it be on my iTunes? Definitely. With this release and label behind them, expect to hear a lot more out of these guys. Pick up a copy of Fluorescent Youth at the upcoming AP tour.

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