Ignore the algorithms! Ignore the algorithms! Ignore the algorithms! That is a mantra I have lived my life by since the advent of streaming music. I hate an anonymised source trying to predict what I would like to listen to next. I have and always will take recommendations from friends, trusted radio DJ’s, trusted journalists, record store staff and sometimes just because I like the artwork or name of the band. That is exactly what happened recently when a recommendation arrived from a friend, from someone who knows what I like to listen to and suggested that I listen to the debut album That Was Then from Manchester band Friends of our Youth. I always love receiving recommendations like this and from the moment I started to listen to the album I fell head over heels in love. You all know that feeling, when you get butterflies in your stomach, can’t stop thinking about your new love and want to spend as much time as possible with them. That is exactly how I have been spending this past week, listening to That Was Then at every opportunity and hope after reading this you will all do the same and share these feelings with me.
Before I started to listen to the incredible sounds that emerge from this album, I knew that I was going to love the album by the name of the band. Friends of our Youth, what an amazing name for a band. It immediately provokes a warm nostalgic feeling within. Sitting here now in my mid 40’s hearing the words Friends of our Youth takes me back to those people who have been there at different times in my life, sharing different moments and experiences, and people who we don’t see as much as we would like to but when we do it feels like no time has passed. Also being on Mai 68 Records is another reason to not hesitate and let this band into your life. Over the last few years I can’t think of any release from Mai 68 that I have not enjoyed.
Onto the music next for further reasons why you are going to love That Was Then and why it must feature in your end of year charts. The music is full of charm, intelligence, thought provoking moments, warmth, melody, togetherness, love, hope and nostalgia that will brighten up the day of anyone within earshot. Trust me, if you have friends / family round over the Christmas period put this album on and I guarantee you people will ask 'what you are playing?' and will be sure to want to find out more. There really is nothing not to like amongst the eight songs that make up this debut album.
I adore the mysterious sounds, melodies and vulnerability in the vocals that opens the album with the title song That Was Then. This song takes us on a very enjoyable journey with some twists and turns that ensures your attention is held throughout. Taxi opens in such a charming, peaceful, and dreamlike manner which in a world that often moves to fast, is a very welcome reminder to us all to slow down, put on an album and just allow yourself to disappear within your own thoughts.
The Search is a fine example of a band making a statement against many of the injustices in this world and fighting back against the establishments “Don’t push us around / Then say sorry / Don’t feed us lies / Then starve us of choices”. Whatever Makes It Easy is the perfect song to give us hope during these long dark winter days, the gentle melodies allow the vocals to take centre stage, the harmonies will melt your heart and the way the song builds remind us that we are all individuals and we all need to do whatever it takes to get through the days. Dim Light is a great little pop song that should find itself onto radio playlists across the country, the melodies are infectious and full of charm, the lyrics are full of reflection “Said things that I probably shouldn’t have / but I don’t think twice in the middle of the night”.
There is no escaping the fact that the music industry has changed so much over the years, however, one thing that remains is there are always bands out there doing what they believe in. Bands / artists who are not trying to write songs to appease CEOs of streaming services. There are individuals who continue to stand by their own values and believe in the creativity and power of music. Friends of our Youth in my mind are certainly one of those bands and That Was Then is a shining light in these challenging times.
That Was Then is available now on Mai 68 Records