20 Sep 2021
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Merk - Album Review: Infinite Youth

13 Apr 2021 // A review by Callum Wagstaff

Merk has been up and running since 2016, collecting a few accolades and getting some attention in that time. He is a Red Bull Music Academy alumni and winner of the Auckland Live Best Independent Debut award in 2017. Merk's sound has been described as bedroom pop, psych-pop, and home-spun alternative pop. Infinite Youth is his second full length album after 2016's Swordfish.

Infinite Youth is steeped in a niceness that makes it a great soundtrack for feeling like you're in a bohemian slice of life romantic movie. It plays like a meet-cute scene with a hint of foreshadowing that somebody is going to get cancer or have their memories wiped.

The whole album revolves around themes of youth and transition, with a pervasive undercurrent that feels like apocalyptic existentialism coming from the next room. It's never quite all the way into optimistic acceptance, but decorates begrudging resignation with kooky sounds. It has a  similar endearing quality to Pickle Darling's work.

GOD uses some percussive elements that remind me of Alt J, with vocal production reminiscent of acts like The Naked and Famous and MGMT.

Laps Around The Sun
does a clever representation of its subject by structuring itself as a repeating refrain that gets extra juices added on each lap. This song is a touchstone in the album. The line "everybody gets to have their fun when it's the weekend" sounds awkwardly strung together at first, but that eccentricity turns out to be genius when it sticks in your head for hours afterward.

Deep Dive's end is a great example of some of the warbly low-fi affectations that give Infinite Youth a warm and cosy energy that you could sit down by a fire and knit to. Happiness contains really interesting string section swells that are exaggerated with volume swells. Merk has dubbed this the "pocket symphony".

Final track Infinite Youth verges on the berm of revisionist synthwave in the direction of The Neverending Story more than Stranger Things. It has a slow tempo and palpable emotional space between beats and notes. It's a wind down in comparison to the rest of the album, but lists between dynamic swells within itself usually led by percussive elements.

Except then it isn't.

It has a second movement of sorts where it veers into a disco-esque refrain in which Merk chants "We are the infinite youth." There's some cool little string parts darting around the head space too, which as the album ends, reminds me that there's been heaps of cool, quirky and interesting ear candy scattered all over this release.

Infinite Youth has some great songs in it in a standalone capacity like the intriguing Laps Around the Sun.
As an active listening piece it can be a bit of a strain; the dynamic range stays well inside the pocket of bedroom pop. It's an ideal soundtrack to accompany creative activities with a tactile element like cooking or building small robots.

The particular type of attention those activities require means you're frequently noticing the interesting affectations Merk's
songs incorporate. Infinite Youth is a really clever and intimate affair just perfect for a rainy day in a bay window.

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )
 

Releases

Infinite Youth
Year: 2021
Type: Album
Swordfish
Year: 2017
Type: Album

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