“Youth” – The Lawlands
Front man Anthony Ferraro is crooning—there’s no other word for it—but he does so with a wondrous light touch: the rare crooner who sounds like he is singing actually to communicate, rather than to hear the sound of his own voice. (Ouch, regarding all the other crooners, but true, -ish.)
The sedate, assured “Youth” plays out as two simple verses, with no chorus; each verse cycles twice through a melody that is gentle but resolute, unfolding over a double-time rhythm section and a gliding series of open chords. The song’s musical core is I think best understood and reflected by the 35-second instrumental break after the first verse, with a chiming lead guitar line landing more often than not on semi-dissonant notes, creating that open-chorded feeling. There’s a sense of flow, and exploration, and ineffable yearning, and (important) exquisite craftsmanship; I feel I could sit in this space for a long time. But the best is yet to come, as the second verse’s final lyrics open out into unequivocal poetry:
It’s strange, the child that I put to rest
Is beating on the walls of my head
And shouting I’m not finished yet
I call this poetry because any attempt to explicate the meaning would require far more words than the lyric used to get there itself. And because there’s an apprehension (both meanings) in these lines that’s almost thrilling to discover. The song finishes with Ferraro repeating one wistful question—“Where is everything I’ve read about?”—which on the one hand brings good old Morrissey (another crooner!) to mind, with echoes of a famous question he asked only in the song’s title (“How soon is now?”). But here I think we transcend that earlier song’s mopey, unripe concerns. This is pretty deep stuff.
Ferraro has been previously featured on Fingertips for a song he recorded as the one-man project Astronauts, etc., in October 2012. Note that at the time I called his voice a “soothing tenor,” but I guess that was more like a “soothing falsetto.” The Lawlands is a Bay Area band that he joined not long ago when their previous lead singer left the country. From left to right in the picture, you are looking at Drew, Alex, Shaun, and Anthony. “Youth” is available as an MP3 through the link here, or via the SoundCloud page, which also offers up the lyrics and, of course, the opportunity to comment on the song directly to the band.