Music Reviews
Welcome to Conceptual Beach

Young Jesus Welcome to Conceptual Beach

(Saddle Creek) Rating - 6/10

On Meditations, the spacious, experimental jam that splits Young Jesus' fourth LP right in the middle, vocalist/guitarist John Rossiter strains his voice as he repeatedly cries, "I wanna be around and live it." The life-affirming call allows Rossiter to let his mind drift at ease, freeing himself from the bookish existentialism he confronted throughout the Los Angeles quartet's superb 2018 release, The Whole Thing Is Just There. It's one of the most truthful and evocative moments within a free, structureless body of songs that otherwise presents a frontman who's more comfortable in his own skin. He lays out his fluttery falsettos and heart-on-sleeve sentiments in a more affected matter—and though it can surprise at first, it won't startle anyone who's already familiar with his vocals.

Thorugh the years, Rossiter and his cohorts have evolved into a thinking person's idea of indie-rock: lyrically acute, more serious-minded and technical in execution, and willing to stretch out the limitations of the genre. And to an extent, Welcome to Conceptual Beach is another shot at reinvention, though with a stronger sense of collaboration and connection. From jazz-flecked adult contemporary (Pattern Doubt) to Reagan-era ballads with a post-rock bent (un(knowing), Rossiter reflects on life's changing rhythms through songs that never settle on a tonal center. Each of the band members brings their diverse musical backgrounds together into a sound collage that feels authentic and well-worn.

Not everything works throughout the album's seven tracks, though. Despite its beautiful acoustic melody, Root and Crown is bogged down by a harmonic performance that comes across as more cloying than genuinely moving. And though the 12-minute Lark is a natural progression of past efforts, the equally lengthy Magicians meanders with its dissonant chord patterns and free-form improvisation before abruptly cutting into a dramatic build that doesn't feel earned. The chances Young Jesus take here in a songwriting sense are commendable, and with technical chops to boot. But overall, it's not quite the powerfully compelling, or approachable, experience that Rositter will have you believe it is.