I first became aware of Andrew Younker about the same time I got into Hidden Bay Records. The Brainchild EP was one of the first things the French label released that made me think they, and Younker, were something special. This was followed by the album Microchasm in 2017 and then Well Wishes in 2018. I was hoping Younker would be one of those rare artists who released something every year without a drop in quality. Then Younker went quiet. There was a split cassette with Foliage in 2018 and a single in 2020 but it was looking like Younker had vanished. At first, I was gutted but considering my appreciation of those few releases I thought something is better than nothing. That is until now. Younker has returned with a new album Togetherball that might not be as good as Microchasm or Well Wishes but it’s not far off.
The album opens with the title track ‘Togetherball’. Younker seems to be in a more reflective mood than on previous releases. The muted pastel dream-pop is still there, but it’s more subtle. The last few years have moved past with glacial slowness, so this is bound to appear in the music Younker makes. What hits you about ‘Togetherball’ is how slow it is. This is a dig, far from it, and you could never have called Younker a frenetic player in the past, but here the songs are of a much slower pace. It feels like Younker has something to say and it is taking time to do it. The main themes seem to be about identity. Younker recently came to terms with himself and now identifies as trans. Throughout ‘Togetherball’ Younker seems to be looking for inner peace, whilst encouraging other to do the same. On ‘Think it Over’ Younker sings lines like “Don’t be nervous”, “I want to be friends with people” and about having “A chance to open up”. It’s all very positive stuff, but it doesn’t feel like sloganeering either. More like a friendly catch-up/pep-talk up with a friend. The standout track is ‘Goodnight, Summer’. It sounds like it is constructed around a sample from Dave Grusin’s score to The Goonies. Cascading guitars gently fall around while more melodies are interwoven, creating something that just keeps pulling you in. The fact that it’s an instrumental is striking too. Usually, Younker delivers that emotional gut punch through their lyrics, but here it’s these catchy melodies that are layered to create something uplifting but also incredibly melancholic. The album ends with ‘Togetherball 2’. It has enough of the same motifs that that opener does to make it a nice bookend to the album.
Overall Togetherball is a solid album which showcases Younker’s guitar work. The slowing down of pace really works well as everything has a swoony, shoegaze, vaporwavey feel to it. Sections of ‘Wait’ feel like music you’d hear in a shopping centre in the 1980s, but without the cheesy connotations that go with it. Younker also has something to say and does so with eloquence and ease. It feels good to have Younker back. This might not be them at their best, but it’s close and that feels good enough for the time being.