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Record Review: Young Yonder's Debut Stays Close to Home

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Young Yonder doesn't make good of the young part of its name; neither its members nor its preferred genres are new to the scene. But as for "yonder"—a term of Middle English origin that has attained a distinctly Southern association—the Raleigh sextet delivers. An assortment of distinctly Southern characters, all in search of a better place than the one they occupy, show up on the group's debut LP, seeking escape, forgiveness, relief from spiritual doubt, and redemption through a variety of means.

The set opens with "Cocaine," a sturdy rocker whose narrator waits in a hotel room while his lady friend scores some blow. Rather than painting a dire scenario, its protagonist's self-delusion erupts into rapture as he imagines the drug will "wash me white/white as snow" before a screaming classic rock finish. Following is "California," an escapist tale that posits the sunshine fantasy of the Golden State as the answer to a desperate dreamer's prayers. Frontman David Teeter rips into every refrain as if his life depended on it, the first indication of the band's preference for the dramatic slow build. The words of an apoplectic preacher herald "Pentecost," a dramatic stomp that would work as the opening theme of the next season of True Detective. One of the most affecting tracks, "How to Be a Baptist," shows off stirring high-lonesome harmonies and the gritty pipes of second vocalist Erik Hawks. On the poppier side, "Get Lost" suggests a happy melding of early Kings of Leon and .38 Special.

But despite Young Yonder's generally pleasant veneer, the band's production approach ensures that you can't miss a word, which means confronting the band's tendency toward overwrought metaphors head-on ("I'm a river about to flood/overflowing from all this rain"). With attention paid toward animating the desperate souls behind these proudly melancholic songs, the band might forge more of a distinct sensibility from well-worn parts.

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