GRAY YOUNG – Bonfire

Album: Bonfire

Artist: Gray Young

Label: On Walks Music

Release Date: March 05, 2013

Gray Young

 Raleigh, NC, trio Gray Young have been quietly perfecting their artistry over the course of three-odd years, gradually morphing from devout shoegazers into seasoned architects of sound – call ‘em Explosions In The Black Emperor, perhaps, but be wary of applying anything but quik-stik labels ‘cos they’re willing to rip ‘em apart and start all over again at the drop of an effects pedal. And third album Bonfire is a revelation, as much for the way the group sidesteps carved-in-stone musical tropes as for how joyfully and reverently they give out bear-hugs. Pop inclusiveness, by any other name.

Featuring Chas McKeown on guitar, “sounds” and occasional vocals, Dan Grinder on bass and synth and Dopko on drums, the band sets phazers on “stun” right from the get-go with “Canopy Reflected,” which quickly morphs from a Sigur Ros-esque dreamscape intro into a blazing melange of jangling/echoing Edge-like guitars and frenetic rhythms. McKeown’s voice is also heard, although as positioned midway in the mix, the singer typically deploys his vocal as an additional instrument, his human cry a necessary emotional textural device. From there the delights quickly pile up: whispery, spidery ballad “Strange Comfort,” featuring guest cellist Josh Starmer (from Chris Stamey’s quartet) and the type of cathartic crescendos that will resonate among Arcade Fire fans; standout track “Reincarnation Breeze,” as yearning a slice of dreampop as you’ll hear all year (not to mention McKeown’s shining moment, vocally speaking – there’s a believable vulnerability to him that speaks volumes); “Wanderlust Opposite Bonfire,” an arpeggiated anthem just begging to have the opportunity to fill arenas with sonic serendipity.

 In an early bio, Gray Young was described as “the ultimate post-punk conundrum.” While that sobriquet was being used at the time to connect the lines between the group’s atmospheric tendencies and its full-on rock adventurousness, as evidenced on 2009 debut Firmament and 2010 followup staysail, the notion holds firm for 2013, too. And in a good way; while slotting easily into the contemporary nü-gaze scene, as populated by the likes of Beach House, Lord Huron, Tame Impala, Tamryn et al, the band has a dynamism and combustibility afoot that breeds surprise in the listener. You’re tugged into the whirling Gray Young miasma both musically and emotionally, and it’s a place you won’t relish leaving prematurely.

 DOWNLOAD: “Wanderlust Opposite Bonfire,” “Reincarnation Breeze,” “Strange Comfort”  —FRED MILLS

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