Youth: “Sylvia Plath”
Track Review by Evan Balikos
Youth’s “Sylvia Plath” is a Dense, Dreamy Wave You Will Want to Stay Submerged In.
Darren Mulrooney’s latest single is an exercise in lush escapism, primarily because it moves like the ocean and drowns you with bliss. “Sylvia Plath” thrives off foliage made from a myriad of feathery guitar riffs, but there’s a patient bass line and a solid pattern of parading drums holding the melody in place. This is a song for lovers of psych rock, shoegaze, and other watery genres. The strong varied fingerpicking throughout the track is enchanting, and the tidal energy of those plucked notes that collide over Mulrooney’s shy and ghostly vocals like pinballs make headphones a requirement for this listening experience. It’s almost purgatorial, thriving in its smoky vapors and seemingly powered by a resistance to finality.
The lyrics, which do well to complement the hypnotic tone and theme of the song, eventually slither in between the gently clashing backbeat and the cascade of guitars.
“Yes I’ll crawl back to you/ you and only/ you will always remain/ in the sun/ you will always remain/ in my heart”, he sings modestly under showers of reverb and bobbing guitar notes.
Mulrooney’s repetition of “you” in his lyrics makes his vocal brevity in the sprawling arrangement an effective one; you don’t have to know what “you” is referring to, it feels instantly resonant to a universal feeling of wholeness and connection to our bodies that sometimes escapes all of us. However, the true meaning of his sentiments is much more endearing and completely congruent with the title of the song. He was inspired by the writing in The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, as well as a discovery of his own journal writings. Mulrooney explained the personal significance of these lyrics over text.
“I wrote the song after skimming through an old torn apart journal I found when I was 19, and I noticed the entries were saturated in dreariness and the sense of feeling abandoned. A younger version of myself seeking something, even if it was the attention of my parents or friends in my life. I was wondering what it felt like to have someone that I cared about more than life itself. The lyrics are definitely an ode my frozen mental state of that time. I’m reminding myself that matter what happens it will be okay.”
“Sylvia Plath” thrives off that very concept of withdrawal. The dense layering of the arrangement is cyclical and entrancing; it has the power to shrink the space beyond your ears and deliver isolating comfort between them. But Mulrooney’s own experience of dislocation with his surroundings is meant to be congruent with Plath. Mulrooney saw himself reflected in her writing.
“She narrated her exploits with friends or relationships she had with partners, and the constant disconnection she felt from them. Wanting to be alone yet craving attention kind of resonated with me. She also died in such as tragic way that I wanted to dedicate the title of a song to her.”
Youth also released a music video for the track, which is exactly as simple as it needs to be. It features Mulrooney strumming on a rocky shore that is intermixed with dissolving shots of various scenes, like a woman summersaulting on the beach and Mulrooney playing with a dog. There’s also a mess of colors that will surely take viewers on a trip, if they’re in the appropriate state of mind.
This track is modest and pure, but like a tall ocean wave, it will grow bigger with each procession. Plath lives on in Youth’s unfurling melody; her urgency to escape emanating long after her existence, and still affecting those who seek a cathartic connection with themselves.