I first discovered Years & Years in a YouTube ad. Yet even within those few seconds, the unique and spiritual electronic sound captured my attention. This is a band formed by chance – two members met online, and the third was discovered when overheard singing in the shower. Their unconventional meeting perhaps adds to the creativity; they perfectly capture emotions run rampant layered with sounds not commonly heard in American pop. As I made my way through their first album, “Communion,” I fell in love with the music and the emotional lyrics.
Band member and electronic bassist Mikey Goldsworthy described it best when he said one can “cry and dance” to their songs, and Years & Years achieves that balance beautifully. Olly Alexander, the lead singer and lyricist, has a unique high-pitched voice that floats above the beats and atmosphere created by producer and synth player Emre Turkmen. The synth, ghostly vocals, and sometimes ominous background voices create an interesting push-pull relationship with your emotions. Dancing unabashedly to “Shine” or “King” is not unlikely. And a few tracks later, “Eyes Shut” and “Without” left me in tears.
“Communion” covers every emotion, from empowerment in “Border” to lust in “Desire.” Although this is just their first album, the band has found a sound just pop enough to be wildly popular in the UK, yet moody and unique enough to stand apart from the countless DJs spinning electronic beats. They work well with dance tracks, ballads, and can even fade into beautiful background music.
When I started to truly listen to the lyrics, however, it was like uncovering a goldmine. “Real,” one of the first popular singles, could be mistaken for a mindless love song about wanting to hook up. However, the lyrics actually reveal deep insecurity and the narrator’s fear of defining his worth based on what a lover thinks of him: “If I had been enough for you, would I be better, would I be good?” Alexander croons lyrics that are profound in their simplicity and relatability.
Similar themes run through my favorite track, “Gold,” where the singer wonders, “Am I defined/By the way they look at me?/Will I be tried?/Will they take what I believe?” If that weren’t enough, Alexander also stands up for LGBT visibility by using male pronouns in some of his songs.
Years & Years takes pop, a genre known for its mindlessness and one-track lyrics, and adds their own instruments and ideas to make the music their own, touching on deep fears and insecurities. All this, while making the listener wait breathlessly for beats to drop and set hearts pounding.
The versatility in the band’s sound and ability, as well as their thought-provoking lyrics, have impacted me deeply. I find myself strangely grateful for YouTube ads now, and glad that they led me to such a talented band.