The Young Tradition's 2003 single for "California Morning" was a shining example of what makes indie pop so great: beautiful melodies sweetly sung and tenderly played with bubbling organs, chiming guitars, and majestic horns. The Young Tradition's 2005 album, Northern Drive lives up to the lofty promise of the EP and more. It includes the sublime "California Morning" and nine other gentle and lovely songs perfect for melancholy afternoons when you're busy doing nothing. The duo of Swedish instrumentalist Erik Hanspers and American vocalist Brent Kenji recorded the album in much the same way they did the single; the music was made in Sweden by Hanspers and a few friends, the vocals recorded in San Francisco by Kenji. As on the EP, Hanspers again creates lush and captivating tunes for Kenji to croon over, he is especially fond of electric piano and vibes giving the record a strange '70s jazz feel at times, especially on the emotional ballad "Footprints" and "Pink Opaque." Most of the record has an autumnal, relaxed feel with loads of gently strummed acoustic guitars, quiet organ and restrained drumming, though a couple of tracks, like the loud and Byrds-y "Now You Know" and the synth pop inspired "Endlessly" pep things up without breaking the spell. Kenji, formerly of indie pop heroes Fairways, is never anything less than wonderful; his intimate and direct vocal style give the songs an emotional strength that a weaker singer couldn't hope to deliver. There aren't many better singers in the world of indie pop, and it is a pleasure to hear him with such strong backing. The Young Tradition have crafted a real gem of a record, full of emotion, hooks, and depth. Don't be afraid of the indie pop tag, Northern Drive is about as twee as a broken heart, and that is just about what you deserve if you miss this band and their "instant classic" album. --All Music Guide
Yes! The debut album from The Young Tradition is here! Anyone who fancied the ace debut single “California Morning” won’t be disappointed by “Northern Drive”! The duo of Swedish multi-instrumentalist Erik Hanspers and Japanese-American vocalist Brent Kenji (formerly of The Fairways and Skypark) brings one old favourite and nine new ones on this album of excellent songwriting and orchestration. Full of jangly guitars, trumpet, flute, cello and keyboards, lovely layered in a production that brings to mind the luxurious ones of the A&M label in the late 60’s. This is a wonderful collection of timeless pop melodies that overrides any trends of today with echoes of The Beach Boys, The Byrds, 60’s soft rock, Swedish folk-jazz wonder Jan Johansson, Eggstone, The Fairways and Belle & Sebastian. Highly recommended! --Fraction Discs
The Young Tradition's two members may live far apart, but they look up at the same sun and moon. For their debut full-length Northern Drive, the music was recorded in Sweden, home to instrumentalist Erik Hanspers, while the vocals were recorded in singer Brent Kenji's home of San Francsico. Two places, two types of weather, and indeed the songs on the album display a near-obsession with weather phenomena. On Northern Drive, the weather is linked to feelings. "I see no reason to get up today / snow has already covered my way to you," Kenji sings on one track. "The only thing I want to see is the sun shine through your hair," he sings on another. The album's dominant theme is sadness and memory – the memories of what once was, or what could have been. The weather serves as a reminder of what is, its idealized version an image of what life could have been. There's a continual love-hate relationship with the sun, the air, the stars, symbols of romance but also of passing time, and the changes that inevitably accompany it. The Young Tradition relies on an array of guitars, horns, strings, organs, and woodwinds to create gorgeous orchestral pop, conjuring up thoughts of the Left Banke, the Zombies, the Byrds, and Belle & Sebastian. It's so appropriate a musical style for such an album, as bittersweet and fixated on time and place as it is. Who could hear the album's opening, Nick Drake-like guitar and not be filled with emotion, not to mention filled with thoughts of Autumn, or perhaps Spring? The musical atmosphere created by Hanspers and friends throughout the album is gentle yet enveloping and absolutely riveting – the melancholy yet also bright sounds evoke multiple seasons, and the feelings each of us associates with each. Kenji's vocals are just as gentle and riveting, his voice soft yet filled with quiet passion. "California sun beats heavy in the air / but there's nothing left to wish that I was there," Kenji sings on "California Morning," the album's first single. It's a moment where awareness peaks through the clouds, the awareness that things will still be sad, no matter the weather. The sense of loss will be overwhelming even if the sun is shining, maybe even more so. As the album nears its end, there seems to be a certain sense of hopefulness, especially in the lovely beats and synth of "Endlessly." Northern Drive's last track, though, is mostly marked by awareness that things will never be the same, and that we're powerless. "I find that time is too much for me to defeat," the line goes, over that beautiful, aching, timeless, Nick Drake-like guitar. --Erasing Clouds
With a name like Northern Drive I was expecting a cold, Nordic sort of an album with lots of sharp, glittery songs, pared down to the bare necessities. What I got was much sunnier, with lots of laid back, happy-sounding tunes. The first bars of the opening track Gone are the Days made me instantly think of Nick Drake, while the second song reminds me of the Beach Boys, but what else do you expect of a song called “California Morning”. The nearest we get to my Nordic idea is on Footprints which at least mentions snow, dark days and staying in bed all day. So how can dark, snowy days and California mornings exist on same album? Well that’s because The Young Tradition, Brent Kenji and Erik Hansper, have experienced them both. Brent lives in California and Erik lives in Sweden. But it is the California sun that shines strongly through these cheerful songs. My snowy Footprints bops along at a jaunty pace and even a song called Whores could be whistled cheerfully. However, once you start listing to the lyrics they start to sound a little joyful. This record has lots of songs about people leaving, and those left behind being utterly miserable and spending their time hating themselves. However, only a couple of songs on the album really conjuror up these emotions. Triangle, a beautiful simple song, makes my heart ache a little bit. And the closing track Everything We Knew is a hushed, melancholy sort of song. This is no bad thing; Northern Drive is not an album to find out and listen to in your bedroom while bemoaning a recent break-up. Instead, as suggested in the title track, you should take it on a road trip. Listening to these 10 tracks with the windows down and the sun beating down you will be tapping your fingers on the steering wheel in no time. This record would even brighten up the dull, wet days we have had too many of this summer. --Friends of the Heroes
I guess I wasn’t alone in shedding a tear or two when the Fairways called it a day a few years ago. They had recorded one of the best albums of the century so far, 'Is Everything Alright?', and even though we got a farewell album last year , aptly titled 'This is Farewell', consisting of compilation tracks and EP tracks, I did miss the sweet voice of Brent Kenji. But then suddenly The Young Tradition released their first EP, 'California Morning', and as I suspected, it was brilliant. The band is made up of Brent and his Swedish friend Erik Hanspers, who handles all the instruments. That first single was actually made on two different continents, with Erik recording all the music in his home country, and Brent recording his vocals in San Francisco. The indiepop equivalent to Postal Service, one might say. Now, the two has recorded their first full-length album, and if you liked the EP, you will not be disappointed, believe me. The sweet, summer-ish sound of California is still there, and bands like the Byrds and the Mamas and The Papas (if you can ignore the fact that there are not a lot of female vocals here) keeps passing through my mind. There is no doubt that Mr Hanspers is something of a musical genius, and the fact that no-one here in Sweden seems to have heard of him is a mystery to me. Who is this guy? Anyway, if you like your indiepop to be heavily influenced by the soft pop of the 60’s, with a touch of jazz (as in 'Pink Opaque' or 'Footprints'), this is the record to buy! And… welcome back Brent!
Their "California Morning" EP a couple years back gave a hint of what was to come, but only a hint - this debut album seems to be much more than what they promised! A duo of Brent (ex-Fairways) on vocals and a Swedish fellow named Erik playing all the instruments (except for the brass and wind instruments, which feature in a few songs), the Young Tradition take the same traditional soft and jangly pop elements heard in the first single (the title track of which is on this record), like Belle & Sebastian, Ladybug Transistor and of course the Fairways, and combine other influences, including Simon & Garfunkel (in "Triangle"), a bit of the Beach Boys (especially in "Whores"), some Harper Lee in the synth-driven "Endlessly" and even a touch of jazz in "Footprints". Still, with such a wide range of influences and styles peppering the record, the whole thing is a lot more cohesive than you'd expect. The songs have a sound that is light and airy, but often with a full orchestration at the same time. A couple, like "Northern Drive" and "Now You Know" are quite upbeat, but the majority are a bit slower and more subtle, especially "Triangle" and "Everything We Knew", which are primarily just acoustic guitar and vocals. This is a record any fan of soft pop could love! --IndiePages