Young Jesus' sophomore release with Nebraska label Saddle Creek, The Whole Thing Is Just There
, is an experimental, improvisational and accessible indie rock trip. The Los Angeles-based art rock quartet of singer and guitarist John Rossiter, keyboardist Eric Shevrin, bassist Marcel Borbon and drummer Kern Haug have been releasing music inspired by Rossiter's Chicago post-rock roots ever since their first independently released singles in 2010. The band's many influences shine through on The Whole Thing
, from Shevrin's appreciation of experimentation to Haug's love of jazz, in instantly memorable songs.
From the first menacing guitar drones of opening track "Deterritory," Rossiter demonstrates his devotion to emo with his amateurish vocals over heavy drums and simple bass. A few minutes into the track, Young Jesus completely abandon its previous post-rock palette, diving through speedy muted guitars into a jubilant array of soft chimes, bass and cymbals. After a triumphant burst of choral vocals from Rossiter, Young Jesus closes the song with a return to hard rock, adding more strained vocals and distorted synths. The Whole Thing
's penultimate track, "For Nana," a heartfelt tribute to Rossiter's late grandmother, proves what a wide emotional range Young Jesus have. The track's mellow, warm guitar arpeggios lead effortlessly into a peaceful, wandering stretch of piano, unpredictable drums and watery guitar licks. Eventually, a new chord progression kicks in, building into a bittersweet outro with stuttering drums and shimmering guitars. Rossiter belts out, "I won't see you anymore," backed by soft harmonies as the track slowly fades away.
While Young Jesus' straightforward songs have fantastic payoffs, the quartet is at their best when they improvise and experiment. In "Fourth Zone of Gaits," Rossiter delivers frantic, avante-garde solos which somehow compliment the band's understated blend of reverby chords, subtle bass and light drums. Rossiter delivers the album's best lyrics and vocals here, murmuring poetic lines about "openness to broken arms" and "a greener sort of moment." Rossiter told Stereogum that the lyrics were "improvised on the spot," making his cryptic, gentle performance all the more impressive. The Whole Thing
's finale, a 20 minute monster called "Gulf," opens with a simple, twangy guitar melody, reinforced with bass, which Rossiter sleepily croons and harmonizes over. After this progression hits a fever pitch with layers of screaming, chimes and industrial synths, Young Jesus drags the song through cheerful chords and disorganized licks and eventually settle into its most abstract, sprawling stretch of improvisation yet. Rossiter delivers some of his strangest vocals, taking drastic leaps between raspy yelling and dreamy humming, over a sparse collage of scattered drums, swells of synths and droning guitars. The track closes with a return to the track's opening melody with even more passionate cries and thick drones, eventually fading away with a soft bass line: A simple, beautiful way to close out the record. The Whole Thing Is Just There
is an incredible accomplishment: A small crop of ambitious, well-rounded songs. If you have a passion for rock that takes a few pages from jazz's playbook, don't miss out on Young Jesus.