Sonic Space: Young Summer

By Maya Poddar, The Dartmouth Staff | 10/27/14 5:00am

Even though “Siren” came out in August, its dark synth core and layered, gauzy sound makes it perfect for the drizzly October days that lead up to Halloween.

The debut album for D.C. artist Young Summer, aka Bobbie Allen, surpasses the promises of her first EP “Fever Dream.” A collection of 12 tracks that flow seamlessly, “Siren” is a mixture of Young Summer’s previously released work and new material. Fans of Allen will be happy to see both “Fever Dream” and “Waves That Rolled You Under” on the album. Even if you’ve been listening to Young Summer’s singles on repeat for the last year (which, yes, I have totally been doing), it’s worth listening to the album as a whole. The context of the new tracks makes the old ones feel more grounded, like putting the last pieces into a puzzle.

As near and dear as the older tracks on the album are, the new stuff is addictive. “Striking Distance,” the album’s first track, is a wistful ballad replete with shimmery, dream-like keyboards. It sets the bar for the rest of the album, and not a single track fails to match it. The intro to “Sons of Lightening” is weirdly twangy — like dark wave synth country — but the twanginess gives way to a mesmerizing beat that carries the song to its full potential. The lyrics would be a little ridiculous if Allen didn’t pull them off with such earnest aplomb. “Cage” is one of the darker songs on the album, with morose lyrics and dense percussion. The end of the song sinks beautifully into “Classless Kids,” the final and potentially strongest track on the album. The slow, string-based start almost veers into Lana Del Rey territory, but this is truly a different beast. The changing drums and xylophonic flourishes set it apart from the work of every other electro-pop, synth-based female vocalist.

Every track on “Siren” is distinct, which keeps the album from getting repetitive. Allen’s voice is the true thread that keeps this album together. The depth and emotion of her voice shines through on every track and provides that signature Younger Summer flow. This is the kind of voice that no amount of post-production tinkering can match. The warmth and body of Allen’s vocals contrast with the cool, layered music to make this album feel like a forgotten ’80s synth piece was melted into contemporary musical aestheticism.

“Siren” is a triumph of the self-assured. Young Summer knows what she’s about, and this fearless debut is a testament to her unwavering confidence. Go listen to it.

Maya Poddar, The Dartmouth Staff