Albany-based pop punk powerhouses Young Culture are back at it again with their sophomore full-length You Had to Be There out on November 11, 2022. This 10-track project showcases the band’s versatility, both vocally and instrumentally, as they tattoo their name on this music scene.
The opening track, “Not In Love,” is arguably one of the best Young Culture have written to date, bringing together the best aspects of old and new sounds. Knowing vocalisty Alex Magnan is a fan of The 1975, I can sense those slight influences too. As kids these days say, it’s a 10/10 on the ass shaking scale and I’ll be heavily disappointed if it never sees a live debut.
Next is “Kinda Over It,” which didn’t even have a complete title when premiered at the free hometown show back in June. I’m so honored to say I was the first surfer ever to this track — it’s a classic pop punk song through and through. Although the album is a fall release, “Kinda Over It” is definitely a summer anthem: the instrumentals are simple, upbeat, and easy to bop along to.
“Tattoo” was the first announced single, and admittedly I didn’t know what to think of it, but as we’ve had some months to digest, and a few tours of hearing it live, it’s definitely grown on me. Magnan throws everything he’s got vocally into this track. Residing in the middle of the track list is “Different Now,” “We’re On Fire,” and “Silver Lining” with all three being the unsung heroes of the album. Guitarist Troy Burchett and guitarist turned bassist Gabe Pietrafesa truly shine in their own ways across the three unique tracks. The untold addition of Derek DiScanio of State Champs in “Silver Lining” was a true unexpected surprise.
Tracks eight and nine, “Whiskey” and “Good Karma” respectively, are the last of the pre-released singles. We all remember how important cowboy hats were in the party girl phase, so “Whiskey” is your chance to break it back out. The light country twang is weird to hear from a group that’s primarily punk, but it’s refreshing in its own way. Going back to their roots, “Good Karma” is wholesome, fun, and seems like a great moshing song.
“Know Better” is the smooth, vibey track I’ve been waiting for. It’s reminiscent of their debut self-titled album, it’s light-hearted enough to jump around with your friends, but also requires minimal stamina to sing along to. “Know Better” seems to be the closest we’re getting to a ballad on the release, which I’m not complaining about. A lot of albums recently have been ballad heavy, so I feel this is Young Culture separating themselves from the pack.
We’ve reached the end, but Young Culture manage to save one of the best for last. “Serendipity” is unironically fortuitous — it’s just one of those feel good wrap up tracks and manages to blend smoothly back into the inaugural track, “Not In Love.” I’ve been following this group since seeing them play to 15 people in 2018 and to watch them find their voice on this album brought a wave of emotions.
Overall, the album sounds naturally produced and really fits this new era of Young Culture. You can catch some of these tracks live on part of the “Kings of the New Age” tour. 2023 seems like it’s going to be a huge year for YC, so if you’re not already hooked I’d get on it fast. Make sure to stream You Had To Be There, out Friday November 11, 2022 via Equal Vision Records, pick up some merch, and follow them @youngcultureny on every social media!