Updated: Aug 6, 2021
As a fan a tinge of sadness is inevitable after learning that a new record only features three songs. Though disappointment is certainly not the word that comes to mind after taking the journey through Gang of Youths’ latest record, total serene.
After four years of no new music, Gang of Youths come galloping out of the stables. It’s been a big few years for the now London based ensemble, with geographic relocation, change in band members and well you know, that ‘ol pandemic thing.
The first single “the angel of 8th ave.” follows suit with the bands’ Springsteen likeliness, a classic rock anthem, with soaring vocals and a boastful prowess and is certainly a shoe in for the Hottest 100. A song of falling in love in a new part of the world, it sets a sanguine setting for Gang of Youths’ return. Powerful, bombastic and affecting, I cannot wait be screaming ‘there is heaven in you now’ from a mosh pit.
Nestled between the two powerhouse releases comes an unassuming cover of the Elbow classic “asleep in the black”. Gang of Youths’ rendition of the ‘02 ballad is a touching and moving addition to the record. With notions of wearing your heart on your sleeve, and finding the formidableness in your follies. Similarly to the Joni Mitchell cover off the group’s 2015 EP release, and the cover of Middle East’s “Blood”, sometimes learning what resonates with these songwriters, allow their audience to know them even more intimately – and “asleep in the black” does just this.
In the lead up to the record’s release, the media line that was echoed around most outlets was the “the angel of 8th ave.” being the only track in the upcoming releases that sound anything like their former work. “unison” leads this departure, finding itself as a complex melange in composition continuing the running theme through the triptych of tracks with celebration of love’s salvation.
Finding more comparisons with Sufjan Stevens than Bruce Springsteen, “unison” blends strings, brass, banjo, samples, drums and everything in between together weaving a sonic tapestry that appears so different to the Gang of Youths gallery we’re used to, yet it remains so familiar. Though the sound might dial down the decibels’, the poetic mastery of Le’aupepe still soars as loudly as before. “I was born and survived by some cold inner space/’til you called out and told me I belonged in this place” - the feelings grandeur and affirmations of life that are a staple in Gang of Youths' mantra continue to echo in their writing.
total serene is out in the world now, and though hungry fans might say 'three songs do not an EP make', my word do they make a heart shake.