Published Aug 15, 2018There are a lot of quotes about adventure — the ones you see on wall art and coasters — that feel relevant when characterizing Conner Youngblood's debut LP Cheyenne. J. R. R. Tolkien's famed "Not all those who wander are lost" is perhaps the most fitting.
Youngblood drew from his travel experiences, or in some cases just the idea of traveling, when he wrote Cheyenne, and illuminates these adventures with a lush sonic terrain of his own making. The 30 different instruments that Youngblood plays compose a soft folky melange, but occasionally a crunchy electronic beat adds a touch of harshness. A harp twinkles on "Stockholm" and a bass clarinet sighs mournfully on "Lemonade." The sonic layers of "Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge" and "The Birds of Finland," both album highlights, are built on the backs of picked acoustic guitar melodies as Youngblood becomes intertwined in a dizzying dance with his instrumentation.
In spite of the resplendence of the album, Youngblood is soft-spoken. His hushed words are curious observational fragments about himself and his relationships. Sometimes Youngblood's voice is so layered and warped that he gets lost in the sonic density. But he's on a mission to find stable ground.
"Am I losing my cool?" he repeats so often on "12 lbs" that he grows agitated. By album's end, the rationale behind Youngblood's exploring becomes clearer when, on "Pizza Body" — a lighthearted play on the song's repeated phrase "be somebody" — Youngblood encourages growth: "You wanna be somebody? Then do something about it."
Although the rich details of Cheyenne can at times leave you disoriented, Youngblood's debut overall is a dazzling journey. (Counter)