Album Review: Chase Coy – Youth
Chase Coy’s eponymous opener includes the line, “I’ve always been the type to dive right in.” It’s evident he used that philosophy on this exceptional pop album. From the opening of the first track, your day improves listening to this album. Coy’s songwriting chops are stellar, using just the right kind of intonation and repetition to bring a soothing calm throughout the album without feeling too trite or minimalist. It’s beautifully rendered and simply amazing.
The opening track “Youth” is a real delight. It’s got an easy balance between Coy’s subtle and comfortable lead vocals and a gentle full band. From the banjo to the electric guitar, it has a new folk feel without the hand claps and gang vocals. It’s a bit more along the alternative rock side at times and that’s definitely a good thing.
On the second track Coy’s tenor vocals become almost soprano. The song’s title is “Before” and it’s a look back at a former relationship. There was something on John Mayer’s Room for Squares that always made me feel like I was in a trendy apartment in a hip city when I listened to it and that feeling resonates on this track also. It feels like it should be coming through some kind of overpriced hipster headphones. The ambient backing strings and (electric?) drums give it an Alex Goot feel. That’s pretty good company; Mayer and Goot.
The third track “Practice” keeps the pop feel going. It’s introspective and maybe even a bit melancholy with a great piano balanced out with solo vocals. As the track crescendos, the intimacy of the message grows in reflective moments about the relationship it’s about. “We were careless and we loved like it was practice.” Wow, what a line. How many of us could say this about dating relationships? It’s wisdom packaged in a pop song. Well done.
“Like Skin” is about someone running their mouth. It’s so well done, though. It really shows how impressive Coy’s writing is that he can make such a complicated topic flow so naturally. The downtempo “Different This Time” has some twangy guitars that conjure images of country music a few decades old. It’s a romantic song with intricate aesthetic, ambient sounds that set off Coy’s high pitched lead vocal perfectly. It’s also about how relationships can be full of such promise, but are often all the same. It’s over from the start, but people lie to themselves. So good.
“Past Life” has that groovy pop sound to it, too. Coy’s lead vocals sound like how I always want singer songwriters to sound. His savvy ability to write songs that resonate with common people, like how we feel like maybe we’ve met someone before, is really impressive. What I really like is that then on the next song the sound shifts beautifully toward an Americana-influenced banjo-driven track “You’ll Always Love Her.” It reflects, again, on life in previous lives, but it does so with a totally different focus. Where the previous track highlighted the joyful elements of that reminiscent past, this one is about moving away from a checkered past. It’s a lot more complicated that it seems; it’s a “next level” nuance rarely heard in pop music today.
“Busy” uses some reverb and production elements to make it feel simultaneously grandiose and really familiar, all at once. “I don’t wanna know what you’re doin’… I don’t wanna know where you’ve been…” It’s a really interesting take on that awkward after-a-relationship stage where people are too “busy” to really reconnect. Keeping with the chill tempo but adding an awesome harmony vocal, “What I’m Thinking” is one of my personal favs on the album. It’s a seriously delicate balance of those duo harmonies and an absolute stunner of an organ. The bridge about “selfish thoughts” might be my favorite part on the whole album and it resolves to that gorgeous organ part. Mmm hmm.
The penultimate “You Cried Wolf” harkens to the fairy tale story. But sonically it’s the sort of folky pop that the rest of the album hits on as well. In some ways, it might be the most indicative track of Coy’s overall sound and feeling. “Sometimes I think I hate you just because…” Lyrically it’s about bitterness and resentment. “You cried wolf but baby we know who’s to blame.” It’s superbly done.
The final track “Each Shallow Breath” could probably be a single as well. They say it’s good to start and end an album with a really strong song. If that’s true, Coy knocked it out of the proverbial park. Even the pacing of the track has the connotation of labored breathing. It finishes the album with the atmospheric melodies heard throughout the album. The speed changes and climbing intonation make for a carnival-like atmosphere at times. It’s sublime.
All told, this is a phenomenal album. Coy is an understated and underrated songwriter. He might not be writing with the same kind of rawness that other songwriters do, but he makes bright, wise connections between his life circumstances and the listener. This is the kind of album you could have on as backdrop to doing school work or you could really just take in and think about each carefully chosen lyric. It’s varied without being chaotic, ambient without being outrageous, and melodic without being trite. This is a solid pop album worthy of your time.