There’s nothing more boring than debut albums by indie guitar troupes hellbent on ripping off the Smiths or Pixies or Pavement or Arcade Fire. And so the debut from teenaged Arizona four-piece the Young Friends, titled a very NorCal Hella, breaks this mold in a welcome way, what with its surf-guitar mastery and unabashedly innocent songwriting. It’s good-times summer jams, heavy on the pop.
The album was recorded by high-school seniors Andrew McKee and Brant Stuns, songs they’d penned over time since freshman year. The drums and guitar and composition is crisp, never lo-fi and often surprising, such as the thick, dissonant, treble-washed ax strumming on the chorus of their single “Make Out Point.” Or the fidgety, wandering, anti-pop guitar on the last track, “South End,” embellished by some incorruptible “wah-wah-oooh.”
Hella is the kind of album I was at first ashamed to admit liking. It’s got a cringe-inducing title, the dudes sing about stuff like clingy girlfriends and broken hearts at summertime parties and the guitar riffs lean Santa Monica. There are even hand claps. Dang. Yet I will not apologize for straight-up digging this unapologetic indie pop. Play it loud and late at night on Sacto evenings when you want to unleash after a day’s triple-digit heat.