Louise Burns is known for her lush voice that shifts effortlessly between shimmering subtleness and fiery angst, but her records themselves boast highly-layered atmospheres that bathe the listener in sonic brilliance. Her long-awaited 2017 release, "Young Mopes", continues this trend but adds a dash of spice and moody grunge that makes for one hell of a sonic journey.
It was worth the wait, and without question is a worthy successor to her spellbinding 2013 release, "The Midnight Mass."
I'm almost tempted to compare this album to Stevie Nicks' "The Wild Heart", as both followed a brilliant record before them, but didn't do away with the formula that made those previous albums so great. Of course, with "Young Mopes", there's a deeper emphasis on changing with the times but maintaining the soul of Louise's first two albums. That shimmering, retro-esque atmosphere is Louise herself. This presence of multi-layered vocals, echoing guitar plucks, and a tinge of folk merged with retro synthpop conveys the complexities and sheer depth of Burns' lyrics and personal journey, reflected upon each track. To be able to maintain one's personality and humanity in this ever-changing world of device-dependent plasticity is a triumph in itself.
Some fantastic tracks from "Young Mopes" include the opener, "Who's The Madman", which romps along with folky, catchy guitar chords that build into a lush soundscape of beautifully presented vocal treatments and echo effects. It's like something that would fit into the soundtrack of Thelma & Louise. Deeply reflective lyrics ("Who's the madman who make-believes that everything's all right") make it, like most of Burns' tracks, a fantastic thought-provoker.
"Storms" is an absolute favourite of mine on the album. A straining yet determined electric acoustic guitar grinds out a haunting melody, leading into some fantastic drum effects and evocative, almost mockingly presented vocals by Burns. It has a pace and rhythm that keeps you hooked, and frankly it's a real thrill to listen to. The chorus, reminiscent of a series of waves or drops on a rollercoaster, is particularly exciting and works very well. I'd love to hear more tracks like this from Louise and company.
Another huge standout is the haunting "Moonlight Shadow", which in my opinion really must be included on the soundtrack for an upcoming season of Stranger Things. The deep, growling synth and guitar combo added with the fantastic opening vocals makes for a hugely harmonious yet beautifully dark song — another Burns staple that I'm so happy remains in 2017 (though hopefully, Louise herself isn't in a dark place). "Pharaoh", the first single released from the new album, is a radio-friendly romp through a lush wilderness of soaring choruses and pounding drums, but don't mistake it for being a weak track. In fact, it's one of the best this Polaris-nominated artist has put out in years, and it served as a really engaging and fitting song to return with.
"Young Mopes", the title track, is another must-listen. The otherworldliness present in the form of its synthesized background makes for a delicacy for the ears, particularly well-utilized when Burns builds into one of her very best choruses, perhaps as great as "Emeralds Shatter" from 2013. This song has some of the best lyrics on the album ("Everything happens for one hundred reasons, that's what they tell you, then you're alone"), and honestly I can see why the album was named after it. It's that great. There are some tracks I'm not so keen on here and there, but I must make it clear that it's only because of the way words are repeated in them when Burns' lyricism is typically profound and ever-flowing, so really I was spoiled by the rest of the album, and went in expecting more of the same. Those tracks are certainly growing on me, particularly "Hysteria", with its powerful growl and kick. One thing this album has taught me is to never expect the "if it's not broken, don't fix it" formula in any creative medium. That in itself has trained me to approach each track on an album from a singular, isolated perspective.
If a record can help somebody reconsider their way of thinking or their perception in some way, then it really is a work of art in my opinion. I can't emphasize how great the tracks are on "Young Mopes" that I've highlighted, and due to none of them being available online for linkage, you'll just have to check them out on iTunes or other services as they are utterly wonderful. Much respect to Louise Burns and company for putting out a solid, soulful and effortlessly evocative album. It's going to be in several of my playlists for a very long time. This is a fantastic soundtrack for a road trip of self-rediscovery and reflection with the top down and the volume cranked, snacks packed and horizons endless.