On their sophomore LP Blissed Out Youth, local dream-pop duo Love Scenes’ Leah Loefke and TJ Grace pick up where they left off, with another robust pairing of M83-esque instrumentals and Feist-y vocals, respectively. Considering the group only formed a little more than 2 years ago and have already released their second album, (not to mention the extent of their own solo back-catalogs) says a lot about their creative integrity and aspirations all together. Love Scene’s 2011 debut, Classy Excuse For A Trashy Experience, primed them for a commendable year as they gathered speed, garnering a lot of local attention as they played a slew of shows in WNY, including an opening gig for an indie buzz-band of similar tang, the electro-pop duo Purity Ring at Mohawk Place last summer. While they maintain a slightly more conservative approach length-wise compared to their aforementioned contemporaries, Blissed Out Youth still packs an effervescent punch, just as its title so staunchly proclaims, in just under 40 minutes.
Blissed Out Youth only seeks to capitalize sonically as each track grows more intense as the record progresses, breaking away from the more minimal tonalities offered on Classy Excuse. TJ Grace maxes out his capacity in under 9 tracks, producing a landscape of keys, synths, and drum rhythms that are equally danceable as contemplative, and Loefke helps mold and sculpt the ranges and caverns, eroding drum and chime motifs with languid vocals that articulate delicate, ethereal, desperate moods juxtaposed with cinematic heartbreak and elation. In the same way the duo is perfectly suited, Grace piecing together the skeletal puzzle, finesse-ing together each element, fusing the bone and muscle, and Loefke as the heart and modular soul, pumping hemoglobin into each bone-dry portrait, coercing the marble and carving it into an introspective effigy. And if the title is any hint at it’s effect on your serotonin levels, you might find yourself in a bind. ‘Blissed-out’ has a lot more implications once you attach the word ‘youth’ to it, and the notions of the title aren’t as trendy as they may come off. Each song is a memory, flashes of an account, bundles of images dumped out of a dusty shoebox only serving to give bitter-sweet headaches of nostalgia.
Leofke attempts this on “Enigmatic”, pleading, “Think out loud / Cry out loud / Scream out loud / Hold me out loud / Walls come down around us...” The repetition of these lines do everything they can to tug at worn heartstrings, especially when those same strings are being plucked so effortlessly by way of a harrowing kick drum and textured synth buzz. It’s an upbeat track in theory, but brings on similar dread experienced by Zola Jesus’s “Shivers”.
Similar desperation is captured on “Dreams on Fire” where Leofke comes in with fast paced lyrics, spouting honest and sometimes unintelligable lines. As a siren, her voice leads even the most calloused listener, delicately belting, “You put on quite the disguise / But I know the pain in those eyes,” before the tempo changes and you’re knocked into a dreamscape. Themes of youth are ignited: “When you were just a child...Your dreams are simply on fire.” By the seventh track “Collapse” is anything but blissed-out. It’s tells the story of an imploding relationship through the analogy of an abandoned house that’s falling apart. Loefke’s opening lines are blatant, “How many times are we ganna do this? / Return right home to that same room / ...listen to the songs that made us fall in love.”
The albums ends beautifully with “Child”, as it picks up from images left off in “Bombshell”, that being: “hopes and dreams that lie in disarray on the floor / no matter how many times I’ve swept them / swept them out the door.” Loefke’s songwriting bears an emotional weight that finally bottoms-out, and all the scaffolding of synths and drums are suddenly unnecessary. We are left with the image on the artist sitting indian-style at her keyboard on a hardwood floor in an empty room. Loefke's solitary voice echoes and the loneliness is intensified by the murmurings on the other side of the wall. Loefke’s songs have a remarkable way of talking to one another as only great poets can do. The next lyric in “Child” only capitalizes on this, “They are there again, again / If only I can make them sing again, again.” And finally affirms the protagonist’s feat at making sense of a collage of memories, “Glue them back together / If only I could remember...” These lines, so tragically ironic, are all spoken in the first minute of the track. The heavyness of the listeners heart at the repetition of “I won’t cry” does more to represent the tag “post-emo” on the group’s bandcamp page than any other lyric on the record.
While Blissed Out Youth often wears its heart on its sleeves, it is simultaneously pulling the shades on all the rooms that hold the most kept and dangerous memories. The hallways are cold, camouflaged by the electronic composition, which is the only thing that might mislead the casual listener from the melancholy of its whole. It’s a potent, yet intricate formula, similar to that of Purity Ring, where most of the audience will probably pick up on all of the buoyant attributes of its framework before it (or if it) picks up on the implications of its stories.