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Youth or Something Beautiful

by Tyne Darling

The spring of 2019 marks the release of Youth or Something Beautiful, the third studio LP from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Tyne Darling. Like its predecessor (2016’s These Ghosts), Youth or Something Beautiful is anchored in its lyrical elements, a reflection on youth, maturity, parenthood, hope, and ambition. Youth or Something Beautiful continues to investigate the genre of Americana, pushing its traditional thresholds farther into the realm of alternative rock. The thirteen original compositions and one cover song that comprise Youth or Something Beautiful are each based upon short stories or creative nonfiction pieces written by Tyne Darling’s songwriter, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist, Tommy Vollman. These songs attempt to articulate fundamental elements of human condition-level experience in relation to the process of evaluating and defining one’s relationship with and to one’s creative pursuits as they collide with, augment, shape, and are shaped by love, death, friendship, parenthood, loss, grief, hope, and joy. Fundamentally, Youth or Something Beautiful is aimed at elevating and exploring both the nature and scope of agency and utility as they function within art. The record continues the work of These Ghosts in seeking to metaphorically demonstrate how one's worldview can simultaneously shape and be shaped by one's own experience.

Recorded at various locations including Milwaukee’s Hope Lab Studios, Los Angeles’ Chateau Marmot, the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, and the New York Palace, Youth or Something Beautiful articulates textures and dimensions that consider the possibility of a seemingly paradoxical stability within the very nature of change. The record’s underlying message is one of optimism in the face of unpredictability and uncertainty, a move toward authenticity via vulnerability.

“As was the case with These Ghosts, the process of writing, recording, and mixing Youth or Something Beautiful was an exercise in refining my own perspectives and allowing these songs to emerge from an organic space,” Vollman states. “In many instances, songs emerged from within songs. A majority of the tracks on the record were composed, drafted, and recorded in different incarnations—sometimes in multiple incarnations. At that point, I began stripping away elements, splicing clips, re-recording, and editing in order to challenge the song to find its own space, its own voice. Despite the fact that it became a process of deconstruction, which in-and-of-itself required a good deal of patience and experimentation, the result was quite liberating. I began to think about songwriting in a whole new manner, about articulations and the ability for resonance within a particular track. The process of editing, rewriting, then re-recording the new versions of these former incarnations became an opportunity for me let go of, challenge, and question certain constraints and/or moves that I’ve employed in the past.”

"I put these songs through the paces,” Vollman continues. “The process made sense—in a systematic way. I tested and challenged each of these songs, which in turn, tested and challenged me as a writer, musician, and, perhaps most importantly, as an individual. The process of articulating these songs in an authentic way forced me to confront some things I’d probably have rather left unexplored. The result, I think, is an attempt to honestly—at least as honestly as I’m able—capture and my thoughts and feelings, my hopes and dreams, which sounds silly and perhaps even a little trite, but I don’t feel like it is actually silly or trite at all. In fact, it’s anything but silly or trite. In embracing and fostering the unknown quality of these songs, I encouraged them. What emerged is the record—the songs—and they have a voice, space, and spirit of their own. I became a sort of facilitator, really. In the end, the songs represent my own love of language, rhythm, hope, and experience.”

Overall, Youth or Something Beautiful is an intimate set of stories crafted in a personal manner with aims at broader resonance. “I’m not naive enough to think these songs are universal, but I do hope that I’ve captured my thoughts and feelings in such a way as to reflect the essential context of what others are observing, feeling, thinking, and reflecting. I suppose I hope that these songs work to stoke the embers of critical consideration. I’m not looking to start a revolution, but I’d love it if this record prompted listeners to explore the vast spaces of uncertainty, the impulses that drive and push us all from one place to the next. There’s a commonality there, I think, one that needs to be fostered. We’re all in this thing together, and it’s critically important not to lose track of that fact. We might not all want the same things, but our reasons for wanting what we do essentially stems from the same root.”

“Collectively, individually,” Vollman adds, “we’re all sort of hoping for, leaning toward and on, and believing in the power of tomorrow, of the future as we’d like to see it. The funny or ironic or wild thing is that none of us are really even sure what that future—that tomorrow—even looks like. We’re not even sure it’ll come, but we still hope and lean and believe just the same. Human beings are curious and confused, but we’re also beautiful. Our experiences, our dreams, our ambitions are, themselves, beautiful. I think that in our youths we’re perhaps more in tune with those things, but then as we age, we maybe become a little cynical, a little insecure, even a little fearful. We couch those insecurities and fears in a our perceptions—our realities—and we fully immerse ourselves in jobs and whatnot. And all of that is okay—to an extent—provided we stay in touch with the essential sparks of what it means to be us on an individual, personal level. For me, those sparks shine brightest when they’re reflected through my family, my words, my stories, and my songs. Youth of Something Beautiful is my attempt to kindle and share those same, essential sparks. This record is my attempt to light up my own world and maybe, just maybe, provide a little light for other folks, as well. I should only be so lucky to have that opportunity.”