Released 30th March
Hailing from Oporto, Portugal, Best Youth is the duo of vocalist Catarina Salinas and instrumentalist Ed Rocha Gonçalves. Formerly of the short lived indie outfit Genius Loki, the pair began recording under the Best Youth moniker in 2011 and released their debut EP Winterlies online the same year, which received considerable praise upon release in their native Europe. Three years later, the band are back with their debut full length Highway Moon, an elegant, brooding and thoroughly modern pop record full of ruminations on love – be it past, present or imaginary – that sees them building on the sound of their earlier releases and, with any luck, should see them headed for the mainstream in the near future.
‘Red Diamond’, the album’s lead single and opener, sets the mood for the album’s eleven tracks, starting as a gentle piano ballad before giving way to an electronica-tinged chorus, awash with icy synths and lovelorn lyrics. With its “honey, I could be your red diamond” refrain – the rarest jewel on earth, apparently – and sultry vocals, the whole thing recalls Lana Del Rey at her poutiest. ‘Black Eyes’, perhaps the album’s highlight and definite should-be single, follows, interweaving twinkling synths and chiming guitars around a lazy, rumbling bassline as Salinas pleads wearily “stare into my black eyes, I’ll show you where I want you to be”.
Elsewhere, ‘Mirrorball’ is an infectious piece of dark disco that plays like a more sinister ‘Heart of Glass’, whilst ‘Infinite Stare’ has an ominous edge that recalls Ultra-era Depeche Mode. The dreamy, hazy end-of-summer lament ‘Fanatic’ and the infectious ‘Ride’ both glide along on svelte vocal hooks backed by glistening vintage keyboards straight out of the 80s new wave handbook, and are maybe the only upbeat sounding moments on an album that spends the majority of its time trying to find glamour in our everyday feelings of restlessness and longing.
Best Youth’s song-writing has a level of sleek sophistication that is rarely found in debut albums, and the production strikes an effective balance between layered intricacy and a distant sparseness that compliments the detached tone of the songs, as well as their sleek monochrome visual style. Highway Moon’s main (and, in fairness, probably only) real flaw is the lack of variation in pace; the album’s tendency towards the downtempo makes listening to the whole thing in one go a sometimes arduous task. Those who make it through without being overcome with despair and ennui, though, will find a lot to enjoy here, and as a whole Highway Moon is a promising and accomplished debut.