Young Mister’s latest EP, Soft Rock, gives its listener an immediate sense of being rooted in wisdom and nature. The unassuming acoustic instrumentation serves to foster a minimalist sense of letting what is not necessary to life simply fade away. Layered atop the instrumentation, Steven Fiore’s crisp, Ben Gibbard-like vocals allow the lyrics to come to the forefront of the EP, further solidifying its message of simplicity.
“Whispering River” starts the release off beautifully. The slowly strumming guitars calm the listener in preparation for the rest of the relaxing EP. I love the repeated lyric: “I want to build us a home, right on this mountain / Give me an ax and I’ll start collecting the wood,” because it describes something that, to me, is very dreamlike. From that one lyric, I can picture a whole surreal lifestyle, where life is built right off the land with flourishing vegetable gardens and maybe even thriving honey bees. I don’t know about you, but that life sounds fantastic to me. When giving the track a further listen, it seems like the life that is laid out in those lyrics is also the speaker’s dream and not yet his reality. The final lyric– “O Whispering river calling me down, I woke up on the other side”– transitions to the next track wonderfully, as nature awakens us all to reality.
“Imaginary Lines”, although still acoustic, has pepped up its step a bit with its slightly quicker pace. Yet, the lyrics maintain a wise groundedness, as Fiore gifts us with nuggets like “You can’t go back / so keep on straight ahead / All the weight that you stack / inside of remember when’s”. The nature-infused lyrics then culminate to the track’s climax: “Let it go man, you’re just holding on,” repeated three times and then paired with “to something that’s long gone”. This track is a perfect example of the minimalistic sound lending itself to reinforce the minimalist message of letting go of the things we hold too closely in life.
The third track, “Infinite Space,” adjusts its focus from earth to, as the title hints, space. Not only the lyrics, but the whole sound of the track feels more spacey than the other songs; from the warbly interlude mid-track to the ethereal female vocals that echo the hook “somewhere out there in the infinite space”. This first single off the album does not disappoint.
“On the Inside” switches out the guitars for a heavier piano with accents of strings, like the cello and violin. I love that Fiore chose to use the piano as this love-song’s anchor. I say love-song, but there is nothing mushy or gushy about this track. Instead, it’s full of intelligent metaphors, playing off an inside / outside dynamic. The first metaphor engages when Fiore sings “you were a capsule buried in the snow / I found you in the springtime / I want to open it up, I want to know / Let’s see what’s on the inside.” That metaphor then continues with the later lyric: “I can be your summer / you can be my winter / take me to your hidden room.” And everyone’s heart just melted. The next metaphor begins by introducing a “house built with a purpose” (perhaps from the first song) and he continues– “I wanna open up all the doors and see what’s on the outside.” The final metaphor returns to the focus of love, “we are an envelope with a letter written from another time / I wanna hold it up to the sun and see what’s on the inside.”
The final track, “Take Everything” really steps out of the typical instrumentation of the EP, as it opens up with percussive elements and maintains a fuller-sounding instrumentation throughout. One of the most impressive aspects of the EP is how perfectly titled all of the tracks are. Each two-to-three word title echoes the main lyric of each of the songs. So for the final track, “Take Everything” is from the chorus: “We turn to / the clouds for answers that we couldn’t find / they shout back / take everything that you can get and get out of here alive”. It makes so much sense to me that the track that follows up “On the Inside” is one that personifies “the clouds” as the one with the wisdom. Therefore, the most inwardly focused song is quickly followed up by one that focuses on nature truly having the answers.
Young Mister’s EP starts and ends with nature. Nature (“the Whispering River”) is what awoke our speaker in the first track. As we come to the EP’s end, nature (“the clouds”) provides the answers that we can’t find from ourselves, our things, and our loved ones. I get the sense from this album as a whole that true wisdom is knowing that nature is where we find life’s answers, not ourselves. So lounge back, put your feet up, and gain a little wisdom from Young Mister’s Soft Rock.–Krisann Janowitz