By: Rob Lindsey
Polish and precision are two words that don’t often come to mind when you listen to local releases. The rush of a new band to get a product on the street or maybe the constraints of cost are most often to blame. That’s not the situation with Standard Candle, the latest offering from Columbia songwriter Kenley Young: it’s one of the most accomplished albums by a South Carolina artist this writer has heard in years.
From rollicking rockers like “How to Bite Down,” “My Armor, My Mercy,” and “Ferrari” to the softer side of “Ghosts,” “Any Closer,” and the title track, Standard Candle runs the dynamic gamut of great rock records, but the centerpiece here is the transcendent “A Place Where Nothing Grows,” which showcases Young’s rich sense of melody, harmony, and arrangement at its most effective. That said, there really isn’t a weak tune in the bunch. The song craft in play here is so tight, the tracks could have been carved from granite.
Above all, Standard Candle just sounds great. Every band in South Carolina should buy this record as a crib sheet for how to squeeze the most out of your players and of the studio process. A few examples are the looped guitar effect layered under Young’s crystal-clear vocal line during the crescendo of “Ghosts”; the tender cello weaving its way through the acoustic guitar in “When His Hands Are Touching You”; and the blazing guitar solo by guest player Mike Schaming of Columbia’s Hot Lava Monster in “My Armor, My Mercy.”
At times, Young wears his ’90s alt-rock influences on his sleeve (I’m looking at you Toad the Wet Sprocket, Better Than Ezra, Oasis.), but he freshens up the form and brings it to our post-alternative, jaded-indie musical landscape with the sincerity of that time. And he does it with flair. The Gallagher brothers at their best wishthey could have written a song like “A Place Where Nothing Grows.”
With Standard Candle, Kenley Young shows what a solo musician can accomplish by maintaining a clarity of vision and an unwavering desire for quality. Too often local and regional musicians are tempted by the quick fix: get in and out of the studio as soon as possible to have something to post to MySpace or Bandcamp or wherever. They should take a step back and listen to Standard Candle, and it will give them all the reason they need to take the time to do it right.