If you’re familiar with Philadelphia’s rock scene at all, then chances are you’ve probably at least heard the name Civil Youth at some time or another.
Comprised of lead vocalist, Michael Kepko, guitarist Daniel Chapman, and drummer Evan Seeberger, the ‘indie-alternative/rock’ trio from Philadelphia, PA has been taking the east coast by storm. With the release of their latest album, Conversations, Civil Youth’s worldwide musical conquest is now all but inevitable. From opening for acts such as Twenty One Pilots, AWOLNATION, and Capital Cities to their 8th US national tour, Civil Youth has far surpassed that ‘local band’ status, and has established a far reaching cultural presence with their genre defying sound, intensely intimate lyrics, and high energy performances.
Conversations, available now, is the band’s latest release. The 13 track album (not including bonus tracks) centers around the wide range of emotions we all go through when battling depression, anxiety or just any of our inner demons. Trying to define a genre for this album is about as challenging as it gets. Conversations is rap-rock meets post hardcore meets pop with obvious influences such as Linkin Park and Twenty One Pilots.
At first listen it all sounds a bit forced and contrived as if the band is going through a sort of identity crisis trying to appeal to everyone but themselves. Much to my surprise, however, after a couple of listens I genuinely grew to really like nearly everything that Civil Youth and Conversations had to offer.
1. 502 (Sides)
3. When We Collide
4. Dark Debts
5. Just Set Fire
6. Between Me & You
9. Let You In (ft. Bradley Walden of Emarosa)
11. Part of Me
13. Conversations (These Ghosts)
Conversations starts with the track “502 (Sides)” which quickly introduces the audience to everything that is Civil Youth and sets the tone for the rest of the album for better or for worse. A driving synth backtrack fuels the entire song opening the floor for Civil Youth’s signature style of vocals. While the vocals are very pop sounding and deceptively catchy (you will find yourself singing these songs, I guarantee it), they are heavily drenched in electronic production techniques making the whole record feel a tad too synthetic.
There’s a catch 22 though. The subtle brilliance behind these vocals sounding the way they do is that they are often conveying very real, and very desperate human themes. This juxtaposition coupled with Civil Youth blurring genres together, blatantly challenging what traditional pop music sounds and feels like is something that took me a little while to appreciate, but nonetheless inspires me.
Take a listen to and watch the music video for “Between Me & You” below!
There’s a very big part of Civil Youth’s sound that I still haven’t touched on, and that is of course the rapping. Kepko is not only the very talented singer for Civil Youth, but also doubles down and raps on many tracks as well showcasing just how good his flow really is. While some songs have just ok rap verses, there’s a few tracks (Jaded, Part of Me, Let You In) that exhibit just how good Kepko can rap and is also a testament to the versatility of the band as a whole. These tracks for me are some of my favorite off the record because they feel the most natural and true to the band. Other standout tracks include “502 (Sides)” and the title track “Conversations."
If you’re a fan of the newer Linkin Park sound or just some solid rap-rock, then Civil Youth and Conversations are definitely the right fit for you.
If you’re not a fan of these things then Conversations isn’t as easy to get into as you’d might hope, but if you stick with it and give the album a fair chance, you can really grow to love it and appreciate its genius. All in all it still sounds a bit over-produced and could stand some more natural sounding vocals, but once you get past that, you can be treated to one of Philly’s best up and coming bands.
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