Suspension of disbelief is a pretty powerful thing. Imagine for a second that you’re looking directly at the sun through a kaleidoscope, the whole spectrum of warm colors dancing about effortlessly. The orange diamonds and yellow hexagons swirling together, mesmerizing. It’s bright, it’s beautiful. Listening to California quintet Young Prisms is equivalent to gazing through that kaleidoscope, an experience that transcends the mundane day-to-day and whisks you away to a psychedelic realm of eternal sunshine and endless feedback loops, a paradise of white sand and washed-out guitar.
Summer 2009 brought about the release of single “Weekends and Treehouses”, a lush track of myriad layers – sweetly harmonized vocals pouring over a wall of noisy guitar and toe-tapping bass and drums. An EP, a couple splits, cassettes, record label changes, and a year-and-a-half later, we finally get a debut LP. And, boy, it was worth the wait. At first listen, Friends for Now may sound like just another California lo-fi, tripped-out, psychedelic effort that has become so trendy recently. It’s the subtleties, though, revealed most explicitly when listened to with headphones, that unquestionably set it apart.
Friends for Now begins with a title track, where a soft bass line swells into an opulent swirl of reverb-laden vocals and meandering guitar. It’s as if you’re falling in slow motion into an abyss, paralyzed by whirring feedback and lethargic chords.
“If You Want To” gracefully breaks the fall, with its danceable beat paired alongside washed-out surf guitar and haphazard vocals. Lacking in substantial lyrics, the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ allow the music to speak for itself, completely engaging the listener with delectable melody. Young Prisms songs consistently stray from the typical lyrical pop song structure of choruses and verses yet adhere to them musically, creating an compelling dynamic that prevents their slew of delicious pop songs from becoming monotonous.
Similar tracks characterize about half of the album; 2010 single “Sugar” shows Young Prisms at their strongest. Pounding, pulsating drums and wailing guitar alongside lofty repeated chimes of “I’m still high/I’m still high” add together for a sweet three-and-a-half minutes in which one can’t help but get lost. “Eleni” follows suit, only with the addition of noisy clanking and clamoring alongside a stellar bass groove.
Although their upbeat tracks are masterful and incredibly enjoyable, Young Prisms take care not to pigeonhole themselves throughout Friends for Now; they also succeed admirably in their ventures into slower, hypnotic jams, fully indulgent in the psychedelic tag of their genre. Exemplifying this is “In Your Room”, a six-minute journey rich in distortion and entrancing percussion. The vocals fade out halfway through the song, allowing for a guitar and pounding drums session that is seriously inescapable, a hallucinogen in its own right.
All in all, Friends for Now is an impressively strong debut that exceeds even the vast expectations of those fans primed on the band’s introductory singles and releases. With its subtle psychedelia and addictive beats paired with incomprehensible, lofty vocals, Young Prisms keep the listeners guessing – and definitely coming back for more.