By Gabrielle Jackson, Third Year English
Gang of Youths’ new album ‘angel in realtime.’ is an almost indescribable marvel. If you’ve never listened to anything of theirs but a short clip of ‘Achilles Come Down’ from TikTok, listen to this.
There’s a real mix of style on the album, from full orchestral pieces to a piano-led vocal elegy to jazzy upbeat songs. If you, like me, love a bit of violin in your indie rock then Gang of Youths are the band for you. This album is a beautiful tribute to lead singer David Le'aupepe’s late father. I first listened to ‘angel in realtime.’ on a bench outside a local church staring at the sun setting in the sky, the wind whipping at my hair: a quasi-religious experience to match their triumphant sound. Plus, the album acts as sublime evidence that long songs need to make a come-back (more six-and-a-half-minute songs please!).
The first song on the album is a heart-wrenching retelling of the death, Le'aupepe grasping at memories of his father that he sees everywhere, feeling his father ‘in everything’. A confirmation of universal feeling, his loss is constructed in bone-chilling crescendos that cause goosepimples. The narrative of ‘you in everything’, is raw and unfiltered, and feels truly sincere in its emotions.
What their lyrics achieve magnificently is capturing the huge expanse of feeling in the banal, in the depth of everyday experience. Life pushed into usual monotony is caught incredibly by their use of texture and dynamics, adding or removing instruments to embody a certain cinematic flair that accentuates, or masks, grief-stricken lyricism. Towards the end of this first song the vocals stop, the background heartbeat strengthens, and the music swells. There’s a deep feeling of comfort in the relatability of the muse of a loved family member, rather than the love interest that so many artists are inspired by.
A confusion is communicated by this opening track; Le’aupepe asks how to “face the world or raise a f***ing kid/Or see beauty in the earth and all its majesty replete/When [he’s] spent the better part of [his] twenties doing self-indulgent bullshit on repeat?” He sets out questions that attempt to be answered throughout, but that are not quite fulfilled by the end of the album (which I do recommend you listen to in order). Gang of Youths aren't in the business of giving answers – just giving structure to one’s mourning and pain.
My favourite track is the finale: ‘goal of the century’. The lyrics pick up the questions proposed, where he hasn’t found answers but a road leading forwards, finding “A way that I can talk to you/And reach you.” It feels like a lighter, brighter extension of previous track ‘hand of god’. It begins with beautiful swelling violins, then the added presences of pacific chorale chant, then hand drums, horns, woodwind, percussion, and clicking hands. Community emerges and it all builds to this sense of triumph that bleeds from Gang of Youths’ music. A reconciliation with the path forward, he quietly sings that he’s “thinking of children”, and he “[wishes his father] could meet them”. The choir, the heartbeat of a community, returns from the previous track as he beckons to his dad beyond as an angel in realtime.
These moments of true beauty are held not in the (fantastic) crowd-pleasers that one imagines will be fantastic live, but in the heartfelt, simpler moments like the songs ‘brothers’ and ‘hand of god’, or moments where the vocals are foregrounded, and Le’aupepe seems to be singing to himself. It’s raw and real and makes me want to lie in a field where fireflies are going about their lives while I cry to this album. The album eclipses its brothers in its sheer capacity to feel and inspire feeling.
Featured image: Warner Music UK
What do you think of 'angel in realtime.'?