James Ivy reminds us that alt-rock is here to stay on “Yearbook”
In today’s age of bedroom DJs and synth fanatics, James Ivy revisits acoustic songwriting to reach his inner storyteller. Based in New York, the 21 year-old Korean-American artist recently shifted away from his electronic music background to pursue a more old-school path toward authenticity. His sound now marries a soulful honesty with the flavor of early 2000’s nostalgia–an exceedingly rare style to find in modern indie music. Could the rise of James be indicative of a new revival for alternative rock? After checking out his latest single “Yearbook”, I can attest that all signs point to yes.
Featuring fellow artists Instupendo and Harry Teardrop, “Yearbook” takes us on a dreamlike recollection through summer memories, all the while exuding youthful sincerity and charm. The music video carries no affectations- right off the bat, we see old footage of the three guys simply enjoying each other’s company and messing around their home studio. Instupendo’s intro can be described as nothing less than ethereal, and there’s a real rawness to his vocals reminiscent of Bearface from Brockhampton.
Listeners are given a dual-layer of nostalgia- one from lyricism and the other from instrumentals. Phrases pass by and later repeat themselves, almost as if we’re swimming with James in his thoughts. We touch on special moments like “I’m playing with your hands in Florida” only to fade into lost haziness again when he struggles to recall a face. The track’s guitar riffs can also trace influences to bands such as Semisonic, Eve 6, and Puddle of Mudd–merging nicely with James’s clean, natural pop-punk voice. Overall, there’s a real “now vs. then” undercurrent to keep us on our toes.
Yet “Yearbook” can hardly be labeled as a mere time capsule. Following a gorgeous beat drop, the chorus enters a trance-like state that very much mirrors the experimentation of today’s cross-genre tracks. One name that comes to mind is Roy Blair, an artist known to play with acoustic methods of conveying hip hop and R&B sounds. As we listen on, James and his friends seem to challenge our expectations as well.
Take Harry Teardrop’s outro, for instance. Despite the song falling victim to some drawn-out repetition in its latter half, any listener who drifts off will surely be jolted awake by this guy’s chilling screams. His emotional vigor and raspy tone rescue us from potential monotony and say “fuck it” to those who assumed a passive ending. “Yearbook” thereby finishes as a confident celebration of both past and present. Alternative rock is ready for more of this homemade, garage-style fearlessness. I know I am.