In 2012, Chicago quartet Young Jesus quietly self-released Home, which was astounding on first listen and improved with subsequent listens. Now, with the benefit of distance, it’s easy to cite it as one of the best records of the decade’s first half. Earning its longevity through a delicate balance of the genuinely mournful and the defiantly celebratory, it occasionally wound up coming off as a much more self-aware and contained version of Funeral. There was nothing overly bombastic about it- or anything that suggested grandeur that neared the over-reaching. While those elements were certainly present, they were given equal footing with an underlying minimalism; burying large ideas in a decidedly niche presentation without ever losing their focus.
After the release (and extremely warm reception of Home by the people fortunate enough to hear it), the band fell understandably silent- emerging out of the shadows to play a one-off show on the rarest of occasions. Following up near-perfection isn’t an enviable task- or one that can be taken lightly. Thankfully, the clouds have been slowly parting and the band’s begun to make some calculated moves, the most notable of which is their relocation to Los Angeles. Another that deserves some serious consideration is the addition of a keyboardist, which allows them to broaden an already impressive sonic palette.
“G”, the first song to be teased from the band’s upcoming Grow/Decompose (that’s the artwork, up above) gets one thing out of the way very quickly; this is still a band that’s defined by the city that birthed them. There’s a very prevalent strain of relatively downtrodden post-punk that’s helped characterize Chicago over the past several years that’s been best exemplified by bands like Young Jesus and Shy Technology. That they haven’t sacrificed that sound in the wake of their move is a welcome affirmation of their own identity. All of the other key elements of their best works remain in tact as well, from impressive arrangements and individual song structures to the never-ending arsenal of memorable turns of phrases that can be found in their typically extraordinary lyric sets.
If there was any doubt of the band losing any of its punch after re-assembling out West, “G” annihilates those notions almost as soon as it starts playing. Opening with a character-heavy dialogue (another of the band’s more prominent traits) of: “Neil sits alone outside in a motel in the summer, he checks his phone, checks when a friend is coming over” it’s abundantly clear that the band’s lost none of their verve in what, by all logic and reason, should be a transitory stage. By the time they land on the line “he makes a joke about how fucking ain’t for lovers” in the midst of unraveling Neil’s existential crisis under a microscopic lens, “G” has already entered the conversation for their best song. Unfailingly melodic, unrelentingly impassioned, and frightening personable, this is Young Jesus at their best and bodes well for what’s to come.
While Grow/Decompose has yet to land an official release date, it seems to be safe to say that whenever that occasion does arise, it’ll be a great day for music.
Stream “G” below, download Home (an essential must-own) on their bandcamp, and check back here for additional updates in the coming weeks (or months).