by Torrey Proto
Bay Area, California upstarts Never Young continue their upward trajectory with their latest offering, NY Singles Tape. They continue to blend the organic with the ethereal and otherworldly on this three song collection of singles. Featuring members of much-loved Bay Area bands like Calculator, Toner, and Happy Diving; what was once a two piece consisting of co-songwriters Christopher Adams and Nikolas Soelter is now a full-fledged quartet featuring bassist Niko Escudero and drummer Samuelito Cruz. Coupled with slicker production, the additions of Escudero and Cruz have helped to smooth out the rougher edges of the band’s wonderfully cluttered noise-addled pop of their promising debut tape, Master Copy. Though Singles Tape is sadly a short release, the band continues to deliver on that promise as they had also shown on their self-titled EP from last year.
The dynamic impact the full band adds to the mix is immediately clear on opener “New Villain.” Bright guitars and a melodic and busy bassline triumphantly open the three song release until Adams’s soft and yearning vocals enter the fray. Though the song opens on a decidedly upbeat note, it isn’t long before the vocals morph into something much more sinister, as the band deftly explodes at the right moment before delivering an undeniably catchy and explosive chorus as the singer yells, “I recognize this New Villain / Carved into the outside of your love / I look inside this true feeling / to finally see what I've become.” Though Never Young’s sound is not without reference to the past, it doesn’t stay firmly rooted there. They sound distinctly modern with a sleek, futuristic touch stemming from their distinctively use of vintage sounding synths that clash beautifully with the fretwork of Adams and Soelter.
Second track and first single “Stress Hed” is a shining example of this, as the band looks further inward as opposed to the direct and earnest nature of the preceding song. With Soelter assuming vocal duties, the EP takes an eerier turn to a more restrained but equally brooding place. Soelter’s percussive chants immediately cut through the mix in the intro, giving way to a swift change in rhythm before a sturdy bassline carries the track to a more sullen and intriguing chorus. Just as the hook lands, the chorus ends with a hint of dread and uncertainty as the band’s spiky dual guitars and airy synths blend into a singular digitized haze. The release ends on a light-hearted note on cassette-exclusive “Latex Heart.” The band’s sweetest and slowest piece to date, “Latex” sounds unlike anything the band has released to date. The quartet breathe a collective sigh of release as the swirling guitars and steady drum machine ride a dreamy and lush melody to sweetly conclude a short collection of the band’s strongest material.
Though they’ve smoothed out some of the rougher, lo-fi edges of their debut, Never Young haven’t sacrificed any of the explosiveness and unpredictability they showed a penchant for from their beginnings. The band continues to improve their songwriting while finding ways to smartly weave a chaotic array of sounds into an impressively tight package littered with hooks and the passion and technical chops to pull it off. With each successive release, they continue to give riff lovers a reason to pay attention among a crowded sea of noisy bands on the west coast. The elements found within this collection of three excellent singles suggest Never Young are just getting started, with potential for even more growth as the world awaits a full length.