Many US cities are known for a specific sound. Chicago has blues. San Francisco has become the place where psychedelic and garage rock have been re-imagined. Nashville is country music. Brooklyn and Austin are the meccas of indie music. Louisville, Kentucky, though, does not have a specific genre to which it could attach itself. Instead, with the likes of My Morning Jacket, Wax Fang, Twin Limb, and VHS or Beta, it is the city where diversity, innovation, and the unexpected thrive. Frederick The Younger – one of our Artists to Watch in 2017 – are following in the footsteps of their more established cousins. And on their debut album, Human Child, they deliver a near-masterpiece of eclecticism.
The album isn’t experimental nor oft-kilter, but like My Morning Jacket’s works Human Child is difficult to pigeonhole. Psychedelic and blues-rock, indie rock, southern rock, classic rock, and even a touch of new wave filter throughout the record. The wide-range of music keeps you interested from the very beginning to the end, and it helps that the record is bookend by two brilliant numbers.
The album kicks off with the anthemic rocker, “Horoscope”, which is part old-school rock ‘n roll, part ’60s soul, and just an incredible opener. Every element – the reverb-drenched guitars, the pulsating rhythm section, and the soaring vocals of co-frontwoman Jenni Cochran – is exquisite. The song is also a great introduction to Cochran’s storytelling style (which is one of the major highlights of Human Child), as she tells the tale of a lost soul searching for answers and love. The closer, “Nice Day For A Walk”, is drenched in the Laurel Canyon era with its delicate, folk-rock approach that could have been written by Joni Mitchell or Joan Baez. Cochran’s voice on this tune is stunning, reaching an awe-inspiring level akin to Springtime Carnivore.
In between these two foundation pieces are songs that span the music spectrum. The album’s highlight, “Tell Me”, blends the anthemic quality of the opener with the lush intimacy of the closer. It is unlike any heartbreak song you will hear today – sad, euphoric, contemplative, triumphant. Meanwhile, “Lioness Part 1 & 2”, is quirky and even a touch bizarre at first with its dramatic, theatrical tone before it turns into a jangly, soul-rocker. The song’s duality perfectly complements the cat-and-mouse scenario.
With “Leaves Are Gone”, Frederick The Younger offer a mind-bender of a groovy, retro rocker. Cochran channels her inner Janis Joplin to give the track its soul and edge while the instrumentation is Motown funk rhythms infused with trippy, neo-psychedelic vibes. The one song that showcases the band’s innovation is the immaculate “LP”. The track blends cinematic indie-rock with traces of new wave and synth-pop to create its dramatic soundscape. It recalls the majestic work of PJ Harvey, a completely immersive, haunting, and riveting number. But even on a song like “Human Child”, where the arrangements are simpler and more familiar, there is a refreshing quality in the gripping storytelling and the stark melody they’ve created.
From start to finish, Human Child is not the prototypical rock album. It isn’t even entirely a rock album. It is a complex and even divergent compilation of music that is fascinating and engrossing and reveals the talent of Frederick The Younger. Maybe they won’t become mega-stars overnight, but neither did My Morning Jacket. Instead, they’ll likely slowly gain a loyal following before the rest of the world discovers their ingenuity, talent, and brilliance.
Frederick the Younger are Jenni Cochran (vocals/keys), Aaron Craker (piano/guitar/vocals), Matt Kohorst (bass/vocals), Dave Givan (drums), and Juan Barrera (guitar).
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