review- “in the year you were born”- graydon james & the young novelists

by michael thomas

coming up with an introduction for this band has proven to be a challenge. graydon james & the young novelists have been featured several different times on the blog, and with good reason. their folk stylings have made them a personal favourite, and graydon james & co. seem to have a knack for writing heartfelt songs. it is also not a secret that james loves the lowercase alphabet- which is why this review looks the way it does (and may i comment on how liberating it is to not have to reach for the shift key).

though graydon james and the young novelists put out a double album a few years ago, in the year you were born is the first full-length featuring a fully realized backing band. aside from the band’s six members including james, there are also numerous guest musicians providing sounds like the omnichord and strings. the strings are particularly notable thanks to jaron freeman-fox of the opposite of everything.

of course, listening to the band’s previous ep or live album would have already shown the band’s strength as a whole. in short, they are a band in the truest sense of the word, with every member contributing an important piece of the whole. while bands with ampersands often focus on the lead singer, james does not hog the spotlight. laura spink, the band’s other main vocalist, carries her own weight on a few songs with dazzling results.

listeners of the previous ep will recognize “it takes all kinds” and “left behind,” though both songs have been re-done slightly. the effect of the re-recording on both makes them slightly softer, and it fits in well with the album’s overall atmosphere. “left behind” in particular still dazzles with spink’s vocals.

of course, there’s a whole slew of new songs to hear as well. “in your defense” is a song i’ve grown accustomed to hearing when seeing the band live, and hearing it live is even better. it starts off like a trademark young novelists tune, but later on in the song it incorporates three groups of vocals to create wonderful harmonies (during shows it’s usually the audience who provides these harmonies with some coaching from the band).

the band rocks out a little more with album opener “i was a young man’s son” and “the way it was.” The latter also has some great lines like “i’m doing damage in all my anguish/you’re sayin’ sorry in every language.”

of course, the band also does exceedingly well with slower, more introspective songs. “small-town hymns” could be called the album’s most poetic tune and actually almost brought tears to my eyes the first time i heard it. “waste of time” is a melancholy song that ends off the album, and while it’s a sad song it’s also beautiful thanks to the dual-vocal efforts of spink and james.

in the year you were born is yet another triumph for graydon james & the young novelists, and likely one of many more to come. the album is available via the young novelists’ store.

top tracks: “in your defense”; “left behind”; “waste of time”

rating: proud hoot (really good) +*swoop*



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