With ‘Young Enough’ Charly Bliss Avoids the Sophomore Slump
As odd as it may feel intuitively, an unusually high number of bands knock it out of the park with their debut. They come out of the gate hot and wow listeners with their sound. Charly Bliss is one of those bands. In 2017, when they dropped Guppy on us, people flipped their lids. And rightfully so, may I add. The album, labeled “bubblegrunge” by some, a phrase I will use only once merely to acknowledge it before never wanted to speak it again, is a delightful punch of energy and pop-punk bombast. Eva Hendricks’ helium voice made her a weird heir to Geddy Lee’s throne, perhaps to inspire lyrics about her a la “Stereo” by Pavement as well. Guppy was killer, and one of the best albums of 2017.
Of course, now is when I have to drop the age-old adage about sophomore albums. A band has its entire life to build to the first album, but then they have to follow that up in short order with a second entry. They have to start from scratch. They have a sound to live up to. It’s a daunting task. Avoiding disappointment with a second album is hard.
Charly Bliss’ second album Young Enough has just arrived to our ears, and it is with relief and happiness that I tell you it does not disappointment. The energy of Guppy is still there. This is not a quartet that knows its way around somber and slow, it would seem. That’s fine. Leave that for somebody else. Know your lane, and make the most of it.
Not to say Young Enough is a carbon copy. There is definitely a change in the sound. Some would call it an evolution. I’m not so sure I’d be quite that kind. I loved the organic, periodically raw sound of Guppy. There is more polish, and also more artificiality. The instrumentation features more sounds evocative of drum machines and organs and all that stuff. It feels less lived in, and more like it’s from a machine.
That is a bit disheartening at times, but it does not detract from the quality of the album by and large. It’s still infectious and high energy. Hendricks’ vocals still sore. They are also on the front burner more often on Young Enough. Oftentimes on Guppy, I felt like the lyrics faded into the noise. I didn’t mind, because the energy and melody were there. It just took a few listens, or a trip to Google, to figure out all the lyrics, and on occasion it wasn’t for the better.
The lyrics are much clearer on Young Enough. Perhaps that’s just the sound of the album, or maybe Hendricks feels more comfortable as a lyricist now. She certainly has a facility with words, though I would say the overall impact is a net neutral. On the one hand, “Chat Room” lands a little clumsy to me lyrically, which takes away from what is an extremely catchy beat. On the other hand, “Hurt Me” feels like something the band has never done before. It’s a genuinely gripping song of some seriousness. It’s got an added power to it.
Overall, Young Enough may fall a hair behind Guppy in my personal hierarchy, but that’s not a disparagement. I loved Guppy, and I really like Young Enough. It will almost assuredly make my end-of-year best-of list, probably finishing high on the rankings. It has just the right amount of pop mixed in with its indie rock, though this album does lean a little heavier on the pop and artificiality. You can’t resist the catchiness of the songs. There is not a dud on the album, even if a couple songs are, at worst, forgettable. For every lackluster effort there are two songs you will want to hear again over and over. It feels fitting that Charly Bliss released Young Enough at the precipice of summer. It seems destined to be an album to be played during backyard parties and road trips with the windows down. The sophomore slump is nowhere to be found.
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