Graded on a Curve:
The Young Sinclairs, This is the Young Sinclairs,

Roanoke, VA’s The Young Sinclairs have been busy; according to reliable reports, since forming in 2005 they’ve issued two LPs, seven CDs, three 7-inches, two cassettes, and made numerous compilation appearances. On 10/13 the Ample Play label is releasing the band’s latest This is the Young Sinclairs. It finds the quintet continuing to sharpen an already well-honed blend of ‘60s-derived garage-based melodiousness across 15 strong tracks.

The Young Sinclairs’ success rests upon two main attributes. The first is consistency of songwriting, with the majority of the outfit’s tunes penned by multi-instrumentalist Samuel J. Lunsford. The second comes via engineer John Thompson’s all analogue execution, a maneuver bringing their recordings meticulous vitality.

It’s hot but not overcooked, and if there’s a third agent in the Sinclairs’ good fortune, it’s that the band is completely at ease in a cloak of assorted influences. The sound is profoundly ‘60s, but unlike many acts attached to a retro sensibility, these guys aren’t striving too intensely to sell a package. Conversely, a lack of neurosis is on display, the group seemingly unconcerned with being perceived as trying too hard and subsequently not trying hard enough.

Various similar entities emit vibes more colorful, a few are even downright flamboyant, but ultimately most inhabit a two-dimensional realm. The Young Sinclairs instead produce an immersive 3D experience. In addition to Lunsford and Thompson, they consist of bassist-guitarist-vocalist Daniel Cundiff, drummer Joe Lunsford (Samuel’s bro, taking over the chair vacated by Thompson, who now plays the six-string), and bassist-guitarist Kyle Harris, whom some will know by his work in the Athens, GA to Texas to Richmond, VA band The Diamond Center.

If the Sinclairs avoid overexertion in the image department, since evolving from the tight pocket of musicians dubbed the Magic Twig Community, they’ve still been quite busy, both in terms of product and in overlapping roles. As partially outlined above, everyone in the group is proficient on multiple instruments, Cundiff also playing drums in the Magic Twig exponent Eternal Summers while serving as the Sinclairs’ other main songwriter.

Up to this point a variety of labels, amongst them Planting Seeds, Kindercore, and Chimney Sweep Records, have assisted in the releasing of material, but This is the Young Sinclairs’ connection to Ample Play should increase their profile significantly and without disappointing longtime listeners (a few of these tunes appeared on 45s last year).

The LP opens with “You’re Tied,” its momentum brandishing a wealth of jangle and vocal harmony straight out of ’66 Los Angeles, as the keyboard, in this instance notably not an organ, lends depth. The simplicity of that piano lick infers the Stooges as a nice power pop instrumental boost on the back end seals the deal.

Indeed, the Sinclairs’ stylistic hatchlings don’t all live in one nest. The largest part of “Mona Lisa”’s sturdy mid-tempo mixes a little Byrds with a dash of Stones, but a healthy portion of Big Star-ish hooks are also involved the equation. Furthermore, “New Day,” with its snappy rhythm, airy voices, glistening string patterns and overall tidiness of writing, suggests The Clientele.

This establishes the Sinclairs’ Anglo side, though instrumentally “Turned Around” starts out like Petty and the Heartbreakers. When the voice emerges however, the atmosphere starts to remind me just a bit of a sober Robert Pollard, the association enhanced later in the song by a cool shift reminiscent of the pre-operatic Who.

“Problems” expands upon this template and delivers a standout track, combining gorgeous chiming guitar pop with the ambiance and energy of prime Freakbeat, the drumming exceptional as the breaks and vocal harmonies are perfectly executed; listening with closed eyes conjures visions of Roger Daltrey chest deep in a bathtub full of Heinz baked beans.

And this compares well with the concise folk-rock of “Someone Like the Hawk,” the cut redolent of the young Roger McGuinn (and maybe a hint of Lou Reed) channeling Dylan. Beginning in a sweetly downtrodden mode is “Just Wanted to Help,” though more striking is its bold and fairly lengthy guitar solo; by tune’s finish it edges unmistakably close to Galaxie 500. From there “Never Uneasy” slows the pace and adds acoustic, its stripped-down manner registering as less thoroughly ‘60s as the whole receives an injection of ‘80s indie pop.

“Orion” scores another highpoint, its singing terrific and organ exquisitely flirting with but withstanding the urge to become an overtly psych-pop affair. It unwinds like a merger of Barrett-era Floyd and Todd Rundgren circa-Runt. Then “Don’t Let Me Say (We’re Faster)” joins acoustic strum to electric jangle as the proceedings take a folky turn. The snare arriving toward the end provides a swell touch.

Decidedly and smartly Stonesian is “That’s All Right,” sounding akin to a slightly country-ish slice of the Let it Bleed-era but played by the hungry trimness of the collective that made Aftermath as the abundant keyboard inspires thoughts of Nicky Hopkins, and “Between the Summer and the Fall” fuses Rod Argent-esque organ to a crisp slab of melodic rock sporting appealing undertones of Nuggets-tinged white boy soul.

The piano sticks around for third apex “Dead End Street.” While it’s tempting to praise it as replicating the heights of a classic single issued betwixt ’66-’68, truthfully a song this catchy was highly unlikely to hit the racks so devoid of slickness during the period. Mingling tough and smooth, the Sinclairs’ self-production pays major dividends.

Bluntly, those 88s really help distinguish them from the bulk of their ‘60s influenced peers, giving “All Fallen Down” a mild hue of the stately; as punk hardly figures into the Sinclairs’ attack the sophisto air is maintained pretty easily. And as if on cue, “I Could Die” turns up the amps and shoots for a UK Spacemen 3/Jesus & Mary Chain-zone complete with shaking maracas and shoegazey elements.

It gives an already fine record an assured, unexpected finale. Under circumstances vaguely comparable to The Apples in Stereo, The Young Sinclairs have thrived from within a tightly drawn circle of support; Magic Twig has been described as a smaller scaled Elephant 6 (though the Community has broader range), and their geographic locale is a tad outside the norm. As should be clear, they also wield an approach largely sourced from the same decade that inspired Schneider and company.

In contrast to The Apples’ revamped psychedelia, the Sinclairs do reside closer to the garage. But as outlined above, theirs is a melodic, maximal strain of the form. This is the Young Sinclairs is a confident collection of songs, and fittingly for Ample Play’s moniker, it not only withstands the test of repeated spins, but benefits from deep exposure.


The Young Sinclairs’ This is the Young Sinclairs arrives in stores October 13th in the UK via Ample Play Records and in the US on October 14 via Darla Records. On vinyl.

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