Philadelphia trio Civil Youth have returned with their third LP Conversations, a record that mixes elements of rock, rap, and electronica to create a unique aura of musicianship. Civil Youth has already toured with big name acts like Twenty One Pilots, AWOLNATION, Phantogram, and Capital Cities, and their multi-genre presentation will likely garner them attention from a wide assortment of listeners.
After giving Conversations a listen, it is evident that Civil Youth have changed their sound to a great degree, possibly due to working with the other aforementioned artists. Having listened to their debut LP Disguised in Color, the first band that came to my mind was Mae, specifically their album The Everglow. This comparison comes from Civil Youth’s ability to create uplifting, powerful music that packs a good emotional punch. The music is both calming and assuring while still remaining catchy and accessible. On top of this, Civil Youth took a fairly straightforward pop-rock approach with their early work which helped showcase the band’s knack for writing good hooks. While these elements are still present in their latest output, Civil Youth have certainly taken a much more experimental approach with Conversations.
Civil Youth’s diverse style is evident in the opening track to Conversations, “502 (Sides).” This track features some heavy electronic instrumentals and an impressive vocal range from lead singer Michael Kepko. Kepko’s rapping skills draw comparisons to that of Twenty One Pilots and his sheer singing style is quite reminiscent of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington. In fact, the band seems to draw quite a bit of inspiration from Linkin Park due to their distinct blending of rock, hip hop, and electronic music. The tracks “When We Collide” and “Just Set Fire” specifically resemble the Minutes to Midnight era thanks to their slightly slower, almost atmospheric approach. The band has also gotten slightly heavier with their sound in certain songs. Tracks like “Let You In” and “Part of Me” show some metalcore influence, particularly in the guitar work, though it still blends together well with the band’s high energy.
Speaking of their energy, one of the most notable aspects of Civil Youth’s music is the high amount of liveliness the band puts forth. This assortment of tracks feels like it would work quite well in a live environment thanks to its chanting backing vocals that demand others to sing along. The triumphant and ambitious songs like “Stay” and “Conversations (These Ghosts),” while already standouts on the album, seem like they would work best when echoing through an arena. Overall, it’s easy to see why Civil Youth have picked up a good amount of attention over the last couple of years. Moments like these feel like a call to action. They resemble resounding moments that hold the power to greatly connect with their listeners. These inspirational moments on the album truly show the promise behind Civil Youth. The band holds a powerful ability to engage with their audience and create a rousing experience.
The main drawback on Conversations is that it feels slightly overproduced. While the band incorporates many genres into their sound, it occasionally makes their music feel rather bloated. There is a lot going on in all of these tracks and can make the music feel a bit scattered at times. After a while, the auto-tuned singing and heavy use of vocal chants might wear on listeners, particularly on the track “Jaded.” Perhaps Civil Youth could actually draw back on looking to combine every possible element into each track. By possibly utilizing a “less is more” approach to their song crafting, some of their work might become somewhat more cohesive. It’s always good to keep whole albums diverse, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that every song requires multiple genres mixed together.
Civil Youth are still only a few years into their career so they have a hefty amount of time to improve upon their occasional hiccups. It seems that Civil Youth are still working on developing their niche sound and this most recent record indicates that they have what it takes to have long lasting staying power. Provided that Civil Youth keep experimenting with their sound and continue to work with other noteworthy acts, then their success will only rise from here.