For the past decade or so, Scandanavian duo Lust For Youth have consistently dished out dark wave, electro-pop and New Wave with finesse. On their self-titled new album and fourth for Sacred Bones, they opt for a more expansive direction, leaning on dance-y synth-pop and atmospheric dream pop rather than the monochromatic grooves they’ve utilized in the past. Hannes Norrvide’s vocals have a neon, futuristic synth-pop sheen, and it enhances their more intuitive melodies while revamping the somewhat forgettable ones.
The album opens with “New Balance Point,” a rapturous synth-pop cut that they never manage to top. Norrvide sings with wistfulness, but his lyrics are steeped in resentment—The collision of pure longing and steadfast defiance is stark. He aims bitterness towards a past partner and doesn’t hold back (“You never once proved selfless / It never crossed your mind…Is that what the world needs? / Is that really it? / Another local DJ assisting a semi-pro photographer”). Outros are one of Lust For Youth’s undeniable strengths, and the angelic, climbing synths and chiming guitars that inhabit the last minute of the track add a misty quality to the otherwise clear-skied electro-pop cut.
“Insignificant” is embodies their glossy danceability with skittering cymbals, club beats and another sprawling outro. It’s also one of their most 1980s-indebted tracks (think Pet Shop Boys, New Order, Tears for Fears) of which there are several. “Venus De Milo,” another song that channels that synth-heavy decade, is a slight misstep. It adds a jet-black veneer and ventures down some interesting musical avenues, but the melodies occasionally plod and fail to connect on a gut level, despite Norrvide’s attempts to woo someone by likening them to an ancient Greek statue. They pick up some lost momentum with the gloomy cavorting of “Great Concerns,” and its unadorned guitar line demonstrates their subtle melodic prowess.
Featuring guest vocals from Soho Rezanejad, “Fifth Terrace” has a graceful sway that mimics a slow-motion underwater plunge. It might be a peaceful refuge, but it doesn’t necessarily feel at home sandwiched between bouncy dance-pop songs like “Great Concerns” and “Adrift.” However, its lyrics of elegant weariness are some of the best on the album (“Our glaciers vanished / And our concern long before / Was it a given? / Our land is perished / And our kindness doesn’t show”).
Lust For Youth bounces between the interpersonal and observational, though their lyricism can be clunky at times, perhaps because English isn’t their first language. But there’s also an intriguing collage-like quality to these tracks—rather than paint a clear story arc, they fold in personal experiences with flashes of bold landscapes that appeal to the senses, and it communicates just as much emotion as a heartfelt gush.
“Adrift” has the exact kind of late-night woe you’d want from an icy electro-pop track. The passage of time can be quite overwhelming, especially when considering how seamlessly people can enter and exit our lives, and this track’s somber, supernatural quality speaks to the cruel, often unwitting twists of fate. The album ends on a well-planned note with “By No Means,” which sounds like a blurry walk through the crowds. Its golden, spiraling synths make for a sticky and poignant finish.
Lust For Youth would be most gratifying as a poetic indulgence or as the perfect music festival set in the dead of night, but their entrancing guitars and synths and exuberant percussion would quench the thirst of anyone looking for a pensive album with tantalizing, well-produced textures.