Singer-songwriter Conner Youngblood takes a lot of inspiration from Sufjan Stevens, having apparently nailed the crucial Sufjan trick of surrounding simple, beautiful melodic songcraft with ornate and intriguing instrumentation. He pulls it off pretty well on The Generation Of Lift, his second EP. 12” on Counter.
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This record, then, has been subject to Clint’s post-it-note screening process, in which he scribbles a dead giveaway description to put in my review and then dares me to refute it. Conner Youngblood has been termed “Sufjan Stevens with autotune”, which is interesting, because last time I checked, Sufjan Stevens was Sufjan Stevens with autotune. In reality, though, the proverbial shoe fits. Proverbially: he’s an indie folk artist strumming like a sketcher scrawling, but around his drafts he arranges proper instrumental bombast. ‘Generation of Lift’ indeed.
These records can be made of fine stitching or crap handiwork, and Youngblood just about keeps it together: on harp-melded-beatwork of “Stockholm”, he combines looping, interlaying vocals with a bold, bass-y mix of ultimately minimalist sound, as if he were channeling Joanna Newsom, C. Duncan and James Blake all at once. It’s no easy thing making your music sound simple from a busy place, and though there’s the odd moment that’s recognisably busy -- like “TXTN”, which sounds like the limping version of a Ben Howard song -- this is ultimately a record that feels more accessible than peculiar.
I’d like to hear more from Youngblood the arranger, where he seems intuitive, able to pick off little moments of subterfuge songwriting and smart production -- like the sudden brick-breaking glitches and strum-halts of “A Summer Song”. Ultimately, though, these moments of weirdo-hinting come as background moments to a fairly straightforward and a little over-familiar indie folk -- the flipside of “A Summer Song” is that you could hear those hummed vocal refrains in an advert for cider.
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