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Although I did find “Christian rock” in Ben Seretan’s song’s metadata, I’m doubting that Youth Pastoral is pertaining to protestant rock-pop. Particularly in Brooklyn, there’s been a lack of that soft edge, that “country” influence that isn’t set so starkly in a post-ironic world of cowboy hats, motifs and signals. This record doesn’t need a cowboy hat. I’m sure giving it a countrified note is doing it no justice.
The record opens up in mysticism, William Tyler textures meeting some other vision of sincerity. Seretan is a phenomenal finger picking guitar player and it’s showcased across the board here. His previous release, My Life’s Work, is purely ambient music and these two sides of him meld together on Youth Pastoral.
We drop straight into “Power Zone”. Its plain spoken language has strength and courage but isn’t so overtly poetic as to leap over the listener’s head. The sax solo reminds you that this is a city record, the instrument being so ingrained in our collective conscious, the notes playing out like “Walk On The Wild Side” but this is 2020 and this is a song about a relationship between two people. “Holding Up The Son’s” immediacy and intimacy feels U2-circa-Joshua-Tree. “Straight Line” brings the gospel element home.
Then there’s “Am I Doing Right By You,” the record’s seven minute centerpiece. Seretan’s vocals are wry and dry. “I could feel you pulling away from me / when I try to pray “ echoes the album titles thesis. “Am I doing right by you? Oh, my God!” is repeated many times before the track builds and bursts out into madness, showcasing Seretan’s collection of stellar collaborators. For lover’s of Stephen Malkmus, Lambchop and the like, Youth Pastoral is a litmus test for a brand of indie that is starting to pulse in the dark.
by Shane O’Malley Firek