Updated: Feb 25, 2022
Someone once told me that there we suffer two deaths in this world. One is biological, when the heart stops and blood runs cold, the second is when we are thought of for the last time. Which I know is a grim way to introduce an album with such high anticipation like Gang Of Youths’ angel in realtime. but it was something I couldn’t stop thinking about from start to finish.
angel in realtime. is the third record from London (via Sydney) alt-rock legends Gang Of Youths and has garnered a snowballing hype as each of their six previously released singles has dripped into our ears. Five years after releasing sophomore LP Go Farther In Lightness, they set a standard for themselves that left fans and industry alike curious as to how they could top it. Dare we say it, they have.
Whilst this record sees a deviation from that Springsteen-esque sound that has provided the foundations for their success so far, we gain so much more. A record that centres mostly around the loss of front-person David Le’aupepe’s father, and the grief that ensues, angel in realtime. not only sees the collaboration of culture, genres and sonic styles, but we are given such profound, vulnerable storytelling that will sit with us for years to come.
The record opens with an epic opus ‘you in everything’ that extends almost seven minutes (a bold opening, reminiscent of an anthemic ‘Vitals Signs’ that introed The Positions) and sets the grandeur nature of the thirteen track album we’re about to experience. It’s right from the beginning we hear the choral swells of Islander music and the orchestral textures, that sets the mise-en-scene for a record far different from those surpassed.
"its the first song i wrote. began in wellington, NZ 2019 when i was searching for my brothers — supposed to sort of sum up the themes of album lyrically and musically. ...it’s about going into life without my dad and being followed by spectres of his life, reminders of him..." Le’aupepe shares
Steeped in a rich appreciation and celebration of culture from Le’aupepe’s ancestral roots, we are fed sampling of music and language that go far beyond the mainstream, however the record fuses this with contemporary flare. With samples of Indigenous Pacific choral music - 'Imenetuki Mangaia' in the ‘man himself’, and a Kōrero by magnificent Māori multi-instrumentalist Shane Mclean in ‘spirit boy’ not only does Dave Le’aupepe pay homage and respect to his lineage, but it gives the whole album this feeling of something greater.
"cook islander imenetuki and eastern polynesian (tahitian, marquesian etc) himenes are absolutely beautiful. polyrhythmic, complex masterpieces that sing tales of god, the heavens, the land and sea and of everything in between...the reasons we’ve invested so much time into working with these samples are varied, but the main ones revolve around indigenous and black artists reclaiming our heritage and work from white institutions and artists, and ensuring that our heritage music can be adapted by us and for us..."
Alongside ‘you in everything’ come anthems bounding throughout most of the LP as we hear the staple soaring Le’aupepe vocals, ones that deserve to be screamed at the top of a mountain. ‘the man himself’, ‘angel of 8th ave.’ and ‘the wake of your leave’ revisit Gang Of Youths' ability to make heavy subject matter so goddamn dance worthy. Whether it’s a self-reflection in identity, finding love in a new city or dealing with grief at a funeral (respectively), whilst the record touches on the heaviest of heavies, one still can’t help to be left hopeful.
"simply, 'the man himself' is about how absolutely terrified i am about bringing kids into the world without my dad around. i miss him, and i would give anything for my kids to have met him."
Stripping back the sonic grandiose seen across most of the record, ‘brothers’ speaks louder than most. Sitting in the ‘Kansas’ or ‘Achilles Come Down’ camp of GOY’s repertoire, ‘brothers’ packs an emotional punch that could leave your "knuckles white dry". Son of a stoic father, Dave recites the story of unravelling the lies his late dad had told him about his history and learning of the brothers Le’aupepe never knew existed. It’s an intensely vulnerable ballad, that whilst sonically lies as a quiet moment on the record, contains some of Dave’s loudest storytelling to date and is a standout of the record.
"'brothers' began as a simple piano motif in a studio in auckland. my cousin sasagi visited and after talking with him i had the idea of trying to, effectively, compartmentalise what i had learned about my dad’s life and my family story into one ballad. id thought a lot about paul kelly, joni mitchell, tom waits and other story tellers who only needed a piano and a the truth. with that truth, it felt important to let my brother’s stories be known to others and not forgotten. we are a storytelling people after all."
Whether it’s angelic choral arrangements in ‘Magnolia’, or the exploration of the Er-Hu in ‘Let Me Down Easy’, strings have always been a constant motif through Gang Of Youths’ discography, however angel in realtime. elevates these from ‘musings’, to sophisticated arrangements. With the addition of violinist Tom Hobden to the gang, we see an arrangement of symphonic quality. Despite joking, "we use strings to emotionally manipulate our listeners," it is anything but. The command of musical tension only emphasises just how well Dave and the whole gang know how to get under our skin and into our hearts.
The plucking in ‘you in everything’, the swells in ‘goal of a century’, the tension these string arrangements are able to build only draws us closer to the edge of our seats, as if they are the only thing keeping us upright. Gang Of Youths have perfected the vulnerable with angel in realtime. and have created a body of work that blurs many lines of songwriting styles, nodding both to the contemporary and the traditional, they elevate themselves to a league of their own.
Bookending the record with a symphonic swell, ‘goal of the century’ takes us out on a soaring high. A climactic collision of the old and new, with Hobden’s soaring arrangements melange so beautifully with the Pacific choral music, we reach our conclusion. An uplifting outro takes our sights to the horizon, we stop looking at the past, and look towards the future. We've learned what we can and now we must go on - it’s a feeling of acceptance.
"the song itself underwent numerous iterations and transformations — we wanted a more futuristic approach to compliment hobden’s beautiful arrangement. the most beautiful, most percussive, most overblown, most reichian. the song was the last one completed before the deadline, and the lyrics and vocal were completed at 7am the morning of. the sun came up, the lyrics were done and they were weirdly meta. kind of reflecting on the process of their invention. at the heart of everything, the album is about missing my dad. but it all goes on and on and in time, i hope the record stands as a bit of a monument to the man he was and is long after im gone myself. he deserved it."
Someone once told me that there we suffer two deaths in this world. One is biological, when the heart stops and blood runs cold, the second is when we are thought of for the last time. Which I know is a grim way to end an album review, but it was something I couldn’t stop thinking about from start to finish. Whilst this is a record that details mostly of Dave’s father’s first death, leaving a legacy like this behind just kept making me think that maybe, just maybe, his father might not see the second - this is a record that will live on for generations, and as such, so will “Tattersall” Teleso Le’aupepe.
Today, Friday 25 February sees the release of angel in realtime. worldwide, and though it’s only the second month of 2022, we are calling this now, it will be one of the top releases of the year.
Gang Of Youths will headline shows in Australia and Aotearoa in support of angel in realtime.
Handsome Tours, TEG Live WME and triple j present
GANG OF YOUTHS
angel in realtime. tour
Perth: Sat 30 July 2022 @ RAC Arena, WA
Adelaide: Wed 3 Aug 2022 @ Adelaide Entertainment Centre, SA
Sydney: Sat 6 Aug 2022 @ Qudos Bank Arena, NSW
Melbourne: Fri 12 Aug 2022 @ Rod Laver Arena, VIC
‘A MORE PERFECT UNION’
Hobart: Sun 14 Aug 2022 @ Regatta Grounds, TAS
Featuring GANG OF YOUTHS, ARLO PARKS (UK), CUB SPORT, GRETTA RAY, ADAM NEWLING and THE LAZY EYES
Sunshine Coast: Sat 20 2022 @ Sandstone Point Hotel, QLD
Featuring GANG OF YOUTH, MATT CORBY, MIDDLE KIDS, BUDJERAH, BLESSED, BECCA HATCH and ROMERO
General sale: Friday 25th February @ 10AM AEDT
Tickets available via amoreperfectunion.com.au
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