Glen Yoder’s “When The World Was Young” [*Editor’s Revision]
I’d like to say two things upfront:
1. This re-review of sorts will never happen again. The Blue Indian will not ever re-review an artist’s work, so please do not ask. Think of this as an editor’s note.
2. I read your comments. And I’d be a liar if I said that I thought my original review was a thorough and substantiated write-up of Glen Yoder’s work when I wrote it. This, however, is not for you the readers. It’s for Glen Yoder, because even though I don’t appreciate his music, it means something to him and I need to be fair enough to really hear him out and give an honest opinion.
Glen Yoder’s EP strives for an overall dreamy haze. He likes to put oil with water in his songs: a little hope, a little angst, and never a singular dimension to be found on any of the tracks. But his music feels showy, which is a hard thing to swallow since his story about coming from an Amish community to the far stretches of the world should undeniably inspire something authentic. I can’t navigate to it.
Yoder follows a pattern in most of his songs, which is first recognizable in “Daughter of Zion,” wherein he creates a vocal identity of singing and talking. This pattern has imposed on the instrumentation, and detracts for the fluidity that is possible with his music. The master arrangement for this EP relies on creating multiple personalities in the songs, rather than multiple layers that are cohesively and strongly tied together.
In “Daughter of Zion” he hits a sweet spot when he’s shouting, “We are, we are, we are, we are Kingdom/ We are, we are, we are, we are freedom.” But I find his pseudo-white boy rap (“So come on let’s go/ East to West/ Coast to Coast/ Yeah, take my hand we’ll take the Holy Ghost”) to be totally distracting and a little appalling since it comes off so kitsch.
“When The World Was Young” aims to be the kind of music that will take you out of your car (if you’re not a 12 year old youth-grouper and have a license) and lift the weight of the world right out of you. But he loses me when the opening verse repeats. “Cheap beer and lonely nights/ Empty streets and yellow lights/ And simple thoughts of when the world was young,” feels so cliché. And there are moments when the instrumentation swells to a point that it might wipe out Yoder’s vocals.
“Hollywood” drives me nuts. Yoder whines when he could just straight up sing and hit the radio with this song. It opens with an ominous vibration that quickly picks up the guitar and spoon feeds listeners close to 30 seconds of simple, sad strumming with bass-heavy percussion that is so muted, it almost disappears from the song. This bland composition is the underbelly for the first verse (and second verse), which feels more like a script and less like a voice. I believe in build-ups in songs, but we hear three different Glen Yoders in the song, and I don’t like the first one. I wish this song started with the instrumentation that appears when he sings, “The fantasies will melt away/ And the castle falls in the light/ Of the day.” It’s stronger and vocally he sounds like he’s actually left his bedroom and experienced something. He finally shows off something lovely when his vocals later transition into the perfect falsetto for eye-locking emotions, singing parts like, “And, bright lights grow dim/ Curtains close/ Hollywood you’re ok.”
“Hope” talks about how “Under His blood you see the sons and daughters are dancing free,” and while it starts off with a dance-y, contagious, and riveting intro, the vocals feel less like singing and more like fast-talking. They achieve a definite pop persona, but there is nothing about this song that stays with me long after I’ve played it. It lacks sticking power, which is not usually the case for pop songs.
“Greenland” entertains a folk-y, countryside flair with the guitar in the intro, which I am not opposed to (although parts of it sound very similar to “Hope”). When it fades, it leaves Yoder drawing long lines with his lyrics, stretching them out over and over again (punctuated with “Ohhhhh/ Ohhhhh/ Ohhhhh/ Ohhhhh/ Ohhhhh oohhh/ Ohhhhh”). And when the percussion does pick up, the instrumentation as a whole does compete with Yoder’s attempt to create ethereal and longing vocals. While it’s not about a country, it’s still overwhelmingly boring, void of any highlights or gusto like in previous songs.
“Goodnight, Goodnight” is the only interesting song on here, instrumentally. It sounds less processed and competitive, more genuine and engaging. It’s got a standoffish, slightly moody guitar in the background, flowing over the residue of chords left by the other one. His vocals don’t sound like they’re begging for an audience, which is entirely refreshing.
These songs are all amalgamations of solid parts, vocally and instrumentally, with cheesy or sub-par ones. Where elements of genuine singing exist, there are more choppy, glossed-over, and distracting ones trying to take the stage as well. While Yoder’s style is not something I get excited about, I still stand that he should have capitalized on his stronger, more authentic moments and jumped from there. A couple of these songs could be on the radio, but for his genre, which I feel is less folk and rock and more pop, I’m not hearing arrangements and quality that will have me humming for days, eager for my next listen.