When I was a kid, my friends and I built a tree house in one of our backyards. Unfortunately for us, our town had an ordinance about such things and we got enough complaints that it had to be torn down (it speaks to our craftsmanship that it took my friend’s dad just an hour to take it apart). At first we were ignorant of the rules, then we openly defied them, and eventually we lost to them. It was a learning moment.
Such is the story of youth and such is the story of Bruce and Erica Driscoll. The brother-sister group once went by the name Astaire until the representatives of Fred Astaire’s estate asked that they change their name. So in a moment of legally-necessitated rebranding, they became Blondfire, which soon will release their sophomore album, Young Heart.
The album could not be more fittingly titled. From the first track, it is all about the feelings of youth that are basically required reading for this generation. There are lines about the exuberant drive of motivation, “I will not sleep/’til every day is a weekend” (“Dear In Your Headlights”). There’s the essential live-in-the-moment whimsy, “we’ll keep going ‘til we’re a ghost/no hurry” (“Wild and Wasted”). There’s even the aforementioned unawareness of consequences, “you hit the ground, but you’re not coming down” (“Life of the Party”). The repeated line that ends the album, “it’s not over,” especially shows a youthful reluctance—or perhaps inability–to let go of what you’ve got. It’s utterly impossible not to pick up on the message and general feeling that Blondfire is presenting. Even those lyrics that aren’t explicitly about youth have an adolescent cuteness to them, such as, “hide and seek/tell me what you find underneath/you’re still on my mind, bittersweet” (“Hide and Seek”).
The Young Heart theme presents itself musically as well. The sounds have heavy electronic roots, like that of CHVRCHES or Grouplove, even if the instrumentation is much more rock oriented. The drums, though not machine produced, are steady and methodic, while the keyboards and synths create a foundation. The syncopated figure from “Where the Kids Are” is a prime example of this electornic groundwork (and a recognizable one, too—-it was apparently featured in a Honda Civic commercial). The top-layer is often guitar lines that have a cutting focus, akin to something like Yeah Yeah Yeahs. What makes these songs, though, is Erica’s voice. The vocals are sweet and often understated–think Lana Del Rey with more touch and feeling. The album is surely about being young, but the sincerity in her performance never lets it stray towards immaturity.
It’s easy to get washed away in the poppy, feel-good nature of Young Heart. There’s no doubt that it sounds good, but there isn’t a high variance in the tracks. “The Only Ones” is the biggest departure sonically and after all the lushness and intensity of the first eleven tracks, it seems almost like a lullaby. And just like one’s youth, there isn’t all that much consequence to the album, preventing it from having the lasting gravity of something a little more grounded. But I guess when you’re enjoying the gift of youth like Blondfire, grounded is the last thing you’re aiming for.