The SubSet (self-released)
Kristeen Young is one of those names known to only a fraction of the people that should know of her. It’s been 22 years since she released her debut album, Meet Miss Young and Her All Boy Band and, while she got some deserved attention when she released the Breasticles album in 2003 thanks to the track “Saviour” — a duet with David Bowie, no less — she’s largely remained in the underground.
This is both a blessing and a damned shame. On one hand, to know her is to adore her. Young’s X album was an extraordinary piece of work, produced by Tony Visconti — a beautiful collection of operatic indie-glam-pop tunes that would surely appeal to fans of the likes of Tori Amos and Kate Bush, but also Grimes, CHVRCHES and Pvris. On the other hand, Young won’t compromise her vision for anyone, and we need her to remain that way.
So here we are in 2019, and The SubSet is Young’s ninth album. As ever, it’s self-released and as before, it won’t be heard by enough people. Earlier this year, Young said that she had recorded an album of material different to anything she had done before. She’s right, but the truth is that people familiar with Young already expect that. We expect her to throw us curveballs and make things difficult for our ears, because that’s what she does. That’s what we love about her, or at least part of it.
“When I was writing it I was trying to remember what it was like when I just LOVED music and had no knowledge of any other part of the music business or world,” she said in a press release. “I wanted it to sound fresh and naturally moving, like when I was a kid, but at the same time speaking on the now.”
And by Christ, it sounds all of those things. Opener “Less Than” (she wanted to name it “<” but couldn’t get away with a symbol on streaming platforms) is a harsh, indie-industrial (indiustrial?) battering blanket of a song that is in turn a hammer blow to the face and a warm hug.
That’s the amazing thing about Young, and it’s always been this way: she’s a songbird one minute — etherial and mesmerizing. Then, she’s wild, feral even, catching the listener/concert goer off guard. With “The Bold One,” she’s very much the former. It’s a soothing, gorgeous, epic tune but you know that she’s coming for you soon.
Typical of Y0ung, there’s no filler here. In addition, she played and programmed everything but for the live drums herself. She’s a multi-talented gem, and it’s about time the rest of the world knew it.