Charly Bliss matures with sophomore effort ‘Young Enough’

Wednesday, May 15, 2019 - 6:27pm

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In my interview with Eva Hendricks of Charly Bliss in February, Hendricks told me that pop music makes her feel strong. Charly Bliss’s sophomore album Young Enough takes this maxim to heart. Young Enough finds Hendricks and her bandmates more self-possessed than ever before, attempting to make meaning out of the chaos of life and love. If the band’s debut Guppy was an explosion of frustration, then Young Enough is a reconciliation and piecing back together.

One of the biggest differences between their two albums is the group’s new approach to songwriting and instrumentation. Guppy is stuffed with fiery two-and-a-half-minute songs that speed to their ending and have a tendency to finish before you can process the meaning of them. But God, are they intoxicating. Young Enough tempers that youthful energy with songs that are driven by slow lines of synth and bass. Where Guppy wants to stumble over itself, Young Enough wants to make sure that every word is heard.

Almost every track on the album features an anthemic refrain, most of which hit their marks. Opener “Blown to Bits” relies on dynamic harmonies as Hendricks laments, “It’s gonna break my heart to see it blown to bits.” “Hurt Me” uses the pretty direct “You don’t wanna hurt me, baby” to make its point. In each song, as Hendricks repeats the refrain, these little adages take on different forms. “Blown to Bits” is bittersweet and remorseful, then suddenly apathetic and hysterical. Each chorus leads into the same refrain, twisting and turning new meaning. “Hurt Me” hardly needs verses to make its point: Hendricks singing, “You don’t wanna hurt me, baby,” is at once totally direct and completely gnomic. Is that phrase a threat, taunt, plea or prayer?

However, relying on a single verse to carry the entire song can grow repetitive. “Chatroom” repeats, “I’m not gonna take you home / I’m not gonna save you, no.” The phrase is clunky, too direct and fails to add new layers of meaning each time it’s repeated. The sentiment develops the themes of love and anguish that Guppy teases at, but overall, it fails to capture the dark, complicated feelings of growing through trauma as clearly as the other songs.

To its benefit, however, Young Enough hits on a few distinct emotional high points. The spine of the album is built by nostalgia, release, growth and self-acceptance. One of the most searing lines comes in the title track: “I elected to drown in you.” It’s a line that’s hard to parse completely, teasing out the power of the gravitational pull of emotion and the ways we  allow ourselves to be consumed by other things. Whether it’s work, friends, lovers or family, there’s a risk (and an essential fear, I think) that we’ll lose ourselves in the relationship. Young Enough expresses this anxiety with grace, never growing cynical or refusing connection. This is love, the album says, this is life. Elect to drown in it.