There’s a great scene at the beginning of The Graduate where a family friend ambushes Dustin Hoffman’s character at his graduation party. She asks, “What are you going to do now?” in reference to his life plans/hopes/dreams, to which he responds uncomfortably, “I was gonna go upstairs for a minute.” It’s a scary thing to be on the precipice of adulthood, and sometimes it can make you want to just go up to your room and escape for a while. Colin Caulfield (a.k.a. Young Man) never had a Mrs. Robinson to explore these insecurities. What we get instead is truly stellar introspection from a young adult on the verge of something big.
Vol. 1 is the second album in a planned trilogy, the first being last year’s Ideas of Distance. It’s appropriate then that this middle paragraph in a larger story is about transition. Track titles like “Heading”, “Wandering”, and “Directions” paint a picture of someone drifting aimlessly across a sea of expectations. On “Do”, Caulfield repeats, “I just don’t know what life is” amidst spacey guitars indicative of a newly discovered prog rock influence. Similarly, “Thoughts” begins modestly only to soar through the heavens like an alternate version of OK Computer set inside the diary of an angst-y twentysomething instead of a futuristic, dystopian wasteland.
The instrumentation on Vol. 1 is dense but carefully controlled. While Caulfield’s band rushes forward, they never seem to overpower his delicate croon or the deeply personal subject matter. Although it’s often buried under layers of noise, there’s acoustic guitar on almost every track, harping back to Caulfield’s more stripped-down roots (see his inspired cover of Beach House’s “Heart of Chambers”). Album centerpiece “21” maintains the kind of intimacy usually reserved for folk songs, even as his world crashes down around him. He laments, “Been having these feelings for a long time. It’s a crying shame.”
But there is hope. While Vol. 1 centers on the idea of uncertainty, closer “Directions” has Caulfield asking, “Am I already there? Is it already there?” as the song reaches its sunny peak. It’s his realization that everything, eventually, will fall into place. In the meantime, here’s to you, Mr. Caulfield.
Essential Tracks: “Thoughts”, “Do”, and “21″