Young people with obvious and amazing talent. You just hate them, don’t you? As a former alienated youth I spent countless hours wishing I could be this together artistically at such a young age. To pull it off as well as this crew is to inspire awe in the original meaning of the term (as in ‘wonder mixed with fear’). These three examples of musical youth all offer different takes on contemporary music, underlining that ‘young people’ are no more stable as a category than any other cohort of people.
In 2015 Declan McKenna broke out of nowhere as a 16-year-old with his homemade single, “Brazil,” a catchy song that is a scathing indictment of the corruption at the core of FIFA and international soccer. Comparisons to Jake Bugg are common, but only for me because they both attempt to give voice to voiceless and take up political themes in an effortless way. His second single and video, “Paracetamol,” took up transgender issues. Part of McKenna’s appeal is the obvious authenticity of his lyrics and performance: imagine a more political Jonathan Richman. His EP Liar contains his first three singles and one more song, “Howl.”
Dylan Gardner loves the Beatles and 1960s garage rock but only the former appears as influence on this first record. Recorded mostly in his bedroom, 2014’s Adventures in Real Time is chock full of poprock hits, if this blog were any arbiter of public consumption. “Let’s Get Started” and “Too Afraid to Love You” were the official videos and singles, and they are great, but my vote for AM radio top 40 perfection goes to “I Think I’m Falling for Something,” a track that kicks off with great keyboards and a nice horn section before settling into a super lurching poprock sound with interesting vocal arrangements. So too does “With a Kiss” bolt out of the gate on its acoustic strumming rhythm and a melodic hook that won’t let you go. “I’m Nothing Without You” has that Beatles majesty, nicely executed on the record but also charmingly performed in his bedroom in a video that has unfortunately disappeared from the internet. Gardner’s Facebook says he working on his second album.
Over to the UK where the Fronteers have been going from strength to strength. When I heard their first single in the summer of 2015, “Youth,” I was impressed with their harmony vocals and folksy rock sound. But that didn’t prepare for what came less than a year later. “Idol” was like a totally different band, though not in a bad way. Great acoustic opener, hypnotic electric lead riff, and more great harmonies, but watch for the surprise bridge which seems to be channeling some spooky Everly Brothers vibe. Then just last month they released an EP, Streets We Were Born In, which ups the rock quotient again with tracks like “Full Moon.”