Youth in a Roman Field – Storm Conductor

Youth in a Roman Field – Storm Conductor


Transplanted from the Windy City and now based out of the New York City area, Youth in a Roman Field first emerged in 2012 with their debut full length album Of Grit and Grace which they followed up with 2014’s EP Suits for Children. They’ve garnered considerable praise from a cadre of respected Chicago based critics, but they’ve extended their appeal far outside the confines of the Second City to elicit attention from a wide gamut of music devotees. Bringing together a wildly disparate variety of sounds into a cohesive whole, Youth in a Roman Field’s Storm Conductor features a baker’s dozen of tunes embracing jazz, folk, pop sounds, and even a smattering of classical influences for a gripping whole quite unlike anything else going today. The album, produced by Stewart Lerman, renders this potent synthesis with exquisite clarity that captures the sound of an improbable genre hybrid in full flight.

If you aren’t familiar with them, vocalist and songwriter Claire Wellin will capture your attention from the first. The classical inclinations of the band and her voice blend beautifully with the opener “Your Hand in Mine”, a relatively brief and primarily instrumental piece, but the emotive swell of her voice proves even more affecting than the elegant strings and careful nuance defining this piece. “Target on My Back”, the album’s second tune, has a comparatively spartan structure obviously keyed by Wellin’s voice. The arrangement, however, is far from an afterthought and even the stylistic mix Youth in a Roman Field aim for has recognizable qualities mitigating any unfamiliarity for listeners. Her voice is a revelation with this song. She moves from a tender croon to bluesy gravitas in an eye blink without any apparent discomfort. Upright bass accompanies Wellin during the opening for “Town Hall”, but the song soon opens up into another pop folk styled tune crossed with classical influences to make for a sound we simply just haven’t heard enough of in modern music. Wellin reaches a vocal peak for the album on this tune but, despite the obvious strength of her voice, never overreaches. Attentive listeners will marvel at the control she demonstrates each time out.

“Solid Ground” eschews the stirring musical theatrics of the aforementioned tunes in favor of a more muted, but nonetheless elegant, approach, and Wellin responds in kind with another in a string of thoughtful and deeply involved performances. The band’s bluegrass/Americana influences are a little more overt than usual in “The Departure” and the same spartan aesthetic guiding much of the album is in force here as well. The lyrical content is another strength Youth in a Roman Field bring to the table with each song and “The Departure” is one of their finest moments on Storm Conductor. The title track is a little more idiosyncratic than many of the other songs on this album, yet remains wholly accessible for listeners. It’s gripping how Youth in a Roman Field write and record such signature music yet even the most average of listeners can find their way into this album without ever straining to find an avenue. Storm Conductor is one of the best full length releases in recent memory from anyone on the indie scene and deserves the widest possible audience.


Michael Rand

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