If you’ve been sleeping on Charly Bliss, this is your chance.
There’s nothing about the basic construction of Brooklyn’s Charly Bliss, or their sophomore effort Young Enough, that should point to it being as satisfying as it is. Their brand of bratty, shredfest power-pop can be seen in scores of indie rock bands over the last 30 years, but it’s what you do with those elements that matters the most, and their 2017 debut Guppy combined their sonic debts with deeply quotable lyrics (“I cry all the time/ I think that it’s cool/ I’m in touch with my feelings,” “I can’t cum and I can’t lie/ I can’t stop making myself cry,” and especially “Does he love me most/ Now that his dog is toast?” are all wholly unfuckwithable lines) and made something that, while not original, was tight, fun, infectious and plainly and simply good. With Charly Bliss, every element soars: frontperson Eva Hendricks’ sugary, helium-high voice and dynamite lyrics, the twin-guitar attack between her and Spencer Fox, the ridiculously tight rhythm section of drummer Sam Hendricks and bassist Dan Shure.
With Young Enough, their debt to the ‘90s/’00s guitar-pop landscape is more obvious than ever, and, as always, they sound like an alternate history where Weezer, the Ataris and Paramore managed to hone their strengths and make engaging and deeply satisfying pop songs that capture the spirit of your teens and 20s and yet remain unembarrassing to their fans a decade after. Superproducer Joe Chiccarelli (who’s produced for little acts like The Shins, My Morning Jacket and U2), under self-imposed Spartan conditions, leans deeper into the “pop” half of power-pop. It’s still guitar-driven pop, though, and Chiccarelli’s capable craftsmanship pays careful attention to never bury this. The end result is that it has an arena-ready sheen that, combined with a whole heck of a lot of depth added to their arrangements, makes this one of the best-sounding releases of the year. What’s impressive is that the slickness doesn’t even lead to a sugar-overload.
At the heart of everything is Eva, whose strengths as a songwriter have bloomed further. She’s still uproariously charming—you’ll hunt fiendishly for excuses to whip “I’LL OCCUPY YOUR NATION, FOOL!” out in conversations with friends—but even when she’s not dropping great one-liners, she’s remarkably adept at relatable human angst wrapped together with music that compels you to play air guitar along with it. On opener “Blown to Bits,” she sings about the uncertainty of life after 24 on a nuclear level, listing the things she’ll miss—Karate lessons, “love when you’re in it, French kissing, “Your dad’s favorite team/ Poised to fail then somehow suddenly win”—before returning to her refrain of “It’s gonna break my heart to see it blown to bits,” her voice rapidly autotuning and detuning. Elsewhere, on “Camera,” she paints a bittersweet portrait about a Californian credit card scammer: “Maybe my card company just prevented a masterpiece/ Or something sick and twisted but I’ll never know for sure.” She also showcases her prowess as a legitimately talented singer with songs like “Young Enough” and “Hurt Me,” the latter of which sees Eva abandoning her falsettos almost entirely for something closer to Neko Case.
Young Enough is full of great moments. You don’t have to look hard to find them, either: the pummeling rush of “Under You” feels like it’s straight out of a ‘90s teen rom-com soundtrack, which somehow works perfectly right after the washed-out tropical atmosphere of “Capacity.” The siren wail of feedback that Eva sings atop “Fighting in the Dark,” too, complements the chugging guitar of the intro to “Young Enough.” That track, the best indie rock torch song of the decade, contains multitudes: it’s a career-best for the band, a potent reminder of why the “Repeat Song” option exists on music devices and a dark horse frontrunner for Song of the Year. “We’re young enough to believe it should hurt this much,” Eva sings before the song begins its “All My Friends”-esque ascent, practically demanding that the song be played at every prom for the next decade.
It’s hard to find any true faults in Young Enough, save for the fact that some songs are marginally less incredible than others. It could be a side effect of the dopamine rush that it produces, but each repeat listen confirms that, no: It’s not just a phase, mom. It’s exhilarating to listen to because it gives you the tingle you get in your ears when you hear a band that appears to be a breeze away from well-earned world domination. If you’ve been sleeping on Charly Bliss, this is your chance to get in and see them in small clubs before everyone catches onto their magic.