[sic] Magazine

The Haunted Youth – Dawn Of The Freak

“Sweet teen rebel
You walk into the door, teen rebel
You passed out on the floor, teen rebel
Always wanting something…..

Earlier this summer, one band illuminated Belgiums prestigious Rock Werchter Festival. It wasn’t one of the headliners, Metallica, Imagine Dragons or even the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Instead it was ‘home’ band The Haunted Youth with their fresh take on indie pop, who piqued our interest. We’ve been keeping close tabs since.

As featured in our First Glances series, The Haunted Youth is the vehicle for main songwriter, Joachim Liebens. The frontman infuses his bittersweet material with self-doubts, anxieties and…. tunefulness. Early singles have garnered comparisons with the likes of The War On Drugs and MGMT. ‘Teen Rebel’, which opens this debut album (after some synth doodling), sounds like a millennial re-imagining of jangle pop not unlike Tame Impala, DIIV, or a gauzier The Drums. Yet, just when we think we have The Haunted Youth pigeonholed, ‘Teen Rebel’ does that synth break.

Were this any other new band, ‘Teen Rebel’ would probably be the standout on an otherwise serviceable but unremarkable long player. Here it is merely the start of an impressive debut journey, the first in a ‘God run’ of brilliant songs. The trio of ‘Gone’, ‘I Hate Myself and I Wanna Die’, and ‘Coming Home’ already had promotional videos prior to the album release and these are punctuated by other tracks that could themselves easily be singles. ‘Stranger’ for example is doing the aforementioned War On Drugs thing, while ‘Broken’ has a Cure/Chameleons vibe. Liebens’ vocal falls somewhere between Greg Gonzalez (Cigarettes After Sex) and a woozier Bob Dylan, – slightly fuzzy, slightly feline but completely compelling.

The band shift gear somewhat for tracks such as the dreamy ‘House Arrest’ and the M83-like ‘Shadows’. ‘However their most impressive sleight of hand is saved for last. Closing composition, ‘Fist In My Pocket’ throws us a total curveball with hazy, acoustic, folk rock. Though this feels unexpected it doesn’t jar. Instead, ‘Fist In My Pocket’ actually serves as a reminder, to anyone who needed such, that there’s a proper musician here. Liebens isn’t merely the latest indie darling to get the depressives dancing with their own brand of limerence. Behind the angst pop, behind the twangy guitars and nostalgic keys lays a serious talent. And if he can do this on his first attempt I suggest we better all sit up and take notice.

A strong contender for album of the year.

Dawn Of The Freak is released November 4th via Mayway Records

First Glances feature