Barns Courtney – TheAttractions of Youth
Release Date: 28th August 2017
Record Label: Virgin EMI Records
Brit blues rocker Barns Courtney has just released his debut album and upon hearing it you’d think that he’s been in the business for decades. With catchy riffs, adoring fans and the rockstar persona Courtney is certainly one to watch. Having seen Barns Courtney 3 times his stage presence shows expertise and a great love of performing. If you had never heard of Barns Courtney before you would not think that The Attractions of Youth was his debut album, which shows just how brilliant the songs truly are.
The album kicks off with Fire, opening with a steady drum pulse and catchy verse and chorus this certainly sets an incredibly strong tone for the rest of the album. Fire has a very strong blues rock vibe which fits Courtney’s voice incredibly well, each verse crescendos wonderfully into the chorus which could easily have crowds screaming back the words and jumping around in unison. The bridge totally strips the song back entering in with a western American themed whistling to accompany the vocals within the bridge and back into the final chorus for the massive energy of Barns Courtney’s music. Glitter and Gold is track 2 on the record, this track has been used in film trailers and just about anything else imaginable due to once again the bluesy/American west feel. Entering straight in with vocals Glitter and Gold immediately catches the attention of the listener. Although the chorus isn’t as high energy as Fire it is just as catchy and effective as it is, two songs in and they are both incredible, this certainly sets a strong tone for the rest of the record. Once again Courtney is the king of writing bridges, by completely stripping back the song again it grabs the attention and pulls back into the wonder of the record.
Track 3 Hands was one of the earliest singles to be released back in 2016, this is a loud, jolly and crowd pleasing song. With a strong guitar line and lyrics it’s all in all a strong track. The chorus is loud and extremely bluesy, it is the exact kind of song you would expect to hear on a blues rock album and it is absolutely perfect, it even has a harmonica solo within it. What more could you want? Golden Dandelions is yet another of Barns’ singles, this is a much softer and acoustic song and it is just beautiful, with a nostalgic verse and scalic, high energy chorus it truly is a beautiful song. It’s the kind of song that has the crowd crying but jumping and dancing heavily and is one of my personal favourites. With yet another stripped down bridge this is a classic Barns Courtney style song and divides the album up nicely. Track 5 Hellfire is a fan favourite with a minor key and dirgy bluesy sound this is a perfect fit for this modern twist of folk/blues rock. The verse is only accompanied by light guitar strums but then the chorus comes in with full force and high energy that is so typical of Courtney. The lyrics are extremely catchy as well as the instrumentation behind it. The bridge is also high energy with a high use of effects and the backing of the guitar that we know and love. It’s clear to see why people love Hellfire so much and is certainly one to check out!
Track 6 Hobo Rocket is my favourite off of the album, I remember hearing it a few times live before the album was released and absolutely falling in love. The energy and and business of this song is perfect and really stands out. After a spoken introduction the guitar comes in with heavy chords and backing vocals, even after the introduction you can tell this song is something special. The verse thins out after the loud and heavy introduction allowing you to focus on the lyrics and it builds up to the chorus. Once again Courtney’s choruses have extremely catchy lyrics, backing vocals and instrumentation, after the heavy introduction once more the second verse comes in and the listener is well and truly hyped for the rest of the song. The bridge doesn’t contain lyrics, just backing vocals and guitar however it works perfectly building naturally with the song. After Hobo Rocket there is an interlude called Hobo Outside Tesco – London and even though it isn’t an actually song I feel like it needs to be credited here it’s just a repeated lyric however, the song changes and builds around it and it is a perfect example of an interlude as it references the previous track but changes it around and builds as the minute passes.
Champion was another one of the first singles of the record to be released. Opening with a strong drum beat and stand out vocals this is yet another song which catches attention very easily, the track builds throughout the pre-chorus to the motivating and strong chorus. Champion brings back the blues rock vibe after the interlude and sets the tone for the remainder of the record. Kicks is another song that I had heard many times before album release and just totally fell in love with it. This is the most recent single from the album and the most recent to gain a music video. Entering straight in with vocals (with a kind of EQ effect) and little instrumentation the full attention of the listener is grabbed again, the pre-chorus is infectiously catchy with a driving drum and brush rhythm as well as the harmony on the vocals Kicks can officially earn the title of a ‘banger’. The chorus is as high energy as ever with power chords on the guitar and the strong drum beats we are familiar with, the pre-chorus is repeated in place of the bridge and it works so well especially with a guitar solo following it. This is an obvious good choice for a single, and is yet another fan favourite. Never Let You Down is a more low key song than Kicks and Champion but it works well, with some more catchy lyrics and an uplifting chorus it fits with the album style. The fast paced lyrics go well with the lazy yet driven feel of the song, and the way that the song builds towards the end shows a versatility in what Barns does and adds to the variation of the album, the guitar solo in the bridge is easy to listen to and provides a slightly calming edge.
Goodbye John Smith is the slow song of the album, but it is perhaps the most meaningful and beautiful. With slow piano chords it really changes up the feel of the feel of the album as we are used to guitars and drums but not the piano, the lyrics tell us about love and loss and the harmonies within the chorus are beautiful enough to bring a tear to the eye of the listener. What makes the song more heartbreaking is the deep sentimental value and how it can be interpreted to each individual listener. Before the album was released this was my favourite song and still is one of them and after listening to the track it’s easy to see why. It builds with a sort of etherial light towards the end and shows how Barns can play not only guitar but piano too and how he can play in different styles. Nearing the end of the album it is only natural that the songs get slower but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing Little Boy is proof of this with a light guitar introduction it tells the tale of how life used to be and how it has changed. It is full of hope and nostalgia and this is presented really well throughout the lyrics and building over instrumentation before the chorus, the chorus is uplifting and full of hope and is sung effortlessly and with such ease that is telltale for an artist such as Barns Courtney.
In great contrast from Little Boy, following on from it is Rather Die yet another personal favourite of mine, with a building and exciting introduction which then totally fades once the verse comes in there is a sense of suspense in the air for the chorus to come in. As the verse goes on the instrumentation builds ready for the chorus which once again shows a strength and attitude of a champion (excuse the pun). This then totally fades again in the next verse only to build up once more. It’s clear to see why this is the penultimate song, it brings back the energy and strength that we saw earlier on within the record to then nicely put the record to bed with the final track. The bridge of Rather Die once again totally strips everything back and we are left with a catchy and building vocal line to then finish once more with the chorus.
The final track of the record is the title track The Attractions of Youth which takes on a lazy and nostalgic theme. With organ being used in the chorus it is clear to see that this is very different style to the rest of the album, but bearing this in mind it still seems like the perfect song to round off an album such as this. I think that’s why I like the album so much, it shows how versatile Courtney is and still manages to cover all of the aspects I love about the blues rock genre.
In conclusion The Attractions of Youth is a perfect and modern display of how the new blues rock genre is coming into the scene in full force. With the perfect display of high energy and slower ballads this is certainly my record of the year.
Barns Courtney has also recently sold out his show on the 22nd March at London’s Scala.
Recommended Tracks: Glitter and Gold, Hobo Rocket