Youth Culture - I Hate How Normal I've Become (Album Review)

Mixtapes is a pop/punk band that has released some really good music. It's not hard to tell based on some of the lyrical content that singer/guitarist Ryan Rockwell has some real depth in his lyrics at times. Youth Culture is an interesting side-project from Ryan Rockwell. The debut album I Hate How Normal I've Become is kind of the other side of the coin for him. In the description of this album it mentions how if Mixtapes is the brighter side then this Youth Culture album is the darker one. With that description in mind I went into this album with a lot of interest and excitement as I wanted to see the other side of the story.

This project does have more of a band feel as opposed to a straight solo project. Rockwell does vocals, but he also plays guitar, bass, and keys and is joined by Zachary George (vocals, guitars, bass), Kamal Hiresh (drums, tambourine, background vocals), and Alex Nauth who contributes trumpet on a couple songs. Rockwell really takes the lead spot on this pretty comfortably though. It's not surprising as he shared co-frontperson duties with Mara Weaver in Mixtapes. It's always been a trade-off with them vocally on Mixtapes releases. It was really interesting going into this album knowing that I wouldn't hear that trade-off that is so familiar, but Rockwell does a nice job anchoring the project on his own.

Sound wise this album maybe leans more towards alternative radio-rock sounds of the mid-late 90s. It more so sounds like a batch of Mixtapes songs that incorporate some of those type of vibes and elements. Honestly I could hear a lot of these songs being used as Mixtapes songs, which isn't a bad thing. It's just different enough to notice, but it still feels familiar and not too much of a stretch from what Rockwell does well. In other words this isn't Ryan Rockwell coming out of leftfield with something so different you're surprised and shocked  that this is the guy from Mixtapes. If you like Mixtapes you should like this with no problem.

"Sellout Business" might just be one of my favorite songs Rockwell has ever created. I like the lyrics and musically it's great. It has that pop/punk alternative vibe I was talking about and it's just so catchy. "American Songs" is one of my favorite songs on the album. It's a nice representation of what I think this album is trying to accomplish in both sound and lyrical content. I really like the lyrics as they have a lot of substance to them. I also really like the last track on the album "Weather, Sports, Uncomfortable Silence". It ends the album out perfectly in tone and vibe. "Tell Me About Your Blog" is a good song and has the title track lyrics in the song. This song could have easily been a Mixtapes song. It's catchy and has a nice upbeat vibe. Lyrically this is a really interesting listen. It's very personal and gives you some pretty good insight into Rockwell's life. He talks about money, friends, depression, isolation, flaws, and goes through a lot of self-examination throughout the album. 

Overall I really enjoy this album. It's really neat to hear Rockwell step out of his comfort zone just a little and try something slightly different. I don't know how this album influences Mixtapes future or their future sound. I'm guessing it won't at all. At any rate it basically gives Rockwell a different outlet to express himself in that doesn't have the constraints or expectations in the way a Mixtapes release does. I like the fact that he gives his fans the opportunity to see this other side. It’s a really cool album. Definitely check this out if you’re a fan of Mixtapes; you should enjoy it. However, I also think if you don't like or know Mixtapes at all there is a chance you could really get into this project as it is somewhat different.

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