Young Jesus | Welcome to Conceptual Beach | Saddle Creek Records

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National Music Reviews

It’s been a year, to say the least. Amid global pandemics, social justice uprisings, election mayhem and a bottomless well of other turmoil, the always-steady stream of essential new music felt like a consistent hand to hold. But the swathe of new releases wasn’t just an escapist salve during 2020—it also served as a uniting factor, an artistic space for magnifying voices and echoing collective grief. So whether the sounds presented here soothe, incite, empathize or excise, we hope that our picks for the best albums of 2020 provide you with some sonic friends that heal your soul in one way or another.

  • Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

  • Pinegrove – Marigold

  • Soccer Mommy – Color Theory

  • Touché Amoré – Lament

  • Young Jesus – Welcome to Conceptual Beach

Young Jesus
Welcome to Conceptual Beach

Saddle Creek Records
Street: 08.14
Young Jesus = Pile + Horse Jumper of Love + Radiohead’s OK Computer

A meditation on decay and rebirth, faith and fear, growth and acceptance—Welcome to Conceptual Beach is the latest offering from L.A. post-rockers Young Jesus. Described as the long-time mental refuge of vocalist/guitarist John Rossiter, Conceptual Beach is a fictional in-between place for “knowing and unknowing” (a great contender for 2020’s official tagline), and the album it inspired is composed of complex psychological musings evolved from a lifetime of contemplation.

Conceptual Beach borrows from a mixed bag of genres, culminating in an improvisational masterpiece. Soaring brass makes an appearance on “Pattern Doubt;” “Meditations” begins with airy flutes that compliment the track’s astro-jazz beat; rain-soaked melancholy transforms into playful keys on “Lark,” then transforms again into a twangy, math-y jam, an amalgamation of moving parts that shouldn’t sound cohesive together but somehow do. The last two tracks eek past the 10-minute mark, the variety in each enough for a whole album.

Young Jesus has been unabashedly nihilistic on past albums but transcends this mindset on Conceptual Beach, considering faith as a coping mechanism that might be worth the effort. “Oh, give me all your perfect things / Your weightlessness and pure belief,” Rossiter begs on “(un)knowing,” before admitting in startling tones that jump full octaves, “Oh God and Mary, Jesus Christ / Won’t bless me for my every vice / I’ll be redeemed in shame and grief / In knowing I may not find peace.”

A deeply moving opus on life and death, Welcome to Conceptual Beach is gritty, heartbreaking and hopeful in equal parts. It’s a reckoning with the fact that we’re all magicians “making love and doing dishes,” as the final track suggests, making peace with the banalities of life, trying to find the holiness in it all. –Mekenna Malan