Album Review: Sykes – “Younger Mind”

imageOn the cover of Sykes’s Younger Mind, a girl holds her nose and raises a hand blithely over her head while floating through a sea of blue and purple, as if she has just done a cannonball. The photograph captures the essence of the five-song EP perfectly. To listen to Sykes is to dive into a world where both fun and danger are present, boldness and honesty rule, and young hopes shine in brilliant colors.

There’s no doubt that Sykes is currently sailing toward the stars. A British electro-pop trio composed of vocalist and keyboardist Julia Sykes, lead guitarist and bassist Kristian Taylor, and drummer Will Brown, the band has gotten a good deal of publicity as of late. In recent years, Sykes has played at SXSW and supported acts like Charli XCX and Against the Current. This summer, the band is traveling around the U.S. as part of the famed Vans Warped Tour, where they stand out amongst their pop-punk and hardcore contemporaries. The group’s distinctiveness is not a bad thing—on the contrary, it’s wonderful. Although their sound may differ from standard Warped fare, their talent is beyond up to par, and Younger Mind proves that.

The EP begins with the title track, which boasts an edgier vibe than older Sykes songs. Driven by a memorable guitar riff and laced with snippets of twinkling piano keys and distorted vocals, it’s the kind of song you’ll want to put on repeat while driving down the highway beneath the setting sun. During the pre-chorus, Sykes builds momentum with internal rhyme and toe-tapping percussion. When Julia sings “Go, go, go,” the track explodes into the kind of EDM hit you’d expect from Calvin Harris or Madeon—something energetic enough to be the soundtrack to a fun time with friends, but chill enough to be listened to on a casual Sunday afternoon. It’s a prime example of a song that manages to be well-suited for Top 40 radio without sacrificing ingenuity.

“Lifeline,” the second track on the EP, is another standout. Embellished by shimmering synthesizers and ethereal high notes, it’s a must-hear for fans of Ellie Goulding and Florence and the Machine. The lyrics, which speak of a person reluctantly “slipping from [the] embrace” of a loved one, match the song’s dark ambience perfectly. The recurring line “my love, my love” does double duty for the band—it increases the song’s intensity while etching the song into the listener’s memory, showing that the Sykes knows how to use repetition to their advantage. Piano chords and guitar riffs underscore Julia’s pleas for help, creating a sonic environment that begs for a music video full of night skies and emotion-charged close-ups.

“Warrior,” the next track, takes the album in a much more lighthearted direction. Here, Julia’s soaring vocals about “[putting] up a fight” and “[staying] strong” for a loved one float gracefully up and down the staff like a spiraling dragonfly. The song’s gorgeous major-key melodies and bittersweet, but ultimately optimistic lyrics combine to create three minutes of well-crafted pop bliss.

“Glimmer” is an easygoing, upbeat single evocative of Taylor Swift’s “New Romantics.” Although it is not as artistically impressive as the first three tracks on the EP—partially because a limited vocal range is represented—the echoing chorus shows off Sykes’s savvy for making catchy songs. “Caught Up” is similar-sounding, but more instrumentally intriguing due to the fast-paced, multi-layered percussion that moves the song along.

Younger Mind indicates that Sykes is moving in an exciting direction. More innovative and intricate than its predecessors, the EP is recommended for anyone who likes EDM and alternative music but prefers songs with a radio-friendly sheen.

Rating: 7/10

Brittany Menjivar is an eighteen-year-old music enthusiast who listens to everything from Britpop to EDM to up-and-coming Warped Tour bands. She is passionate about many things in life, including (but not limited to) flower crowns, Foster the People, S. E. Hinton novels, scimitar-horned oryxes, The Great Gatsby (both the book and the 2013 film), theatre, the music of Damon Albarn, blue raspberry ICEEs, and thought-provoking films. Brittany loves spreading the word about interesting ideas, which is why she writes for TYF and serves as the editor of her school newspaper and literary magazine. She also loves metaphors and similes, which explains why she enjoys reviewing music so much. In addition to being a member of the TYF staff, Brittany is a poet who has been published in The Noisy Island, Crashtest, YARN, and Canvas. If you're reading this, she hopes your day is full of good art and good vibes.