Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson - Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson

Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson (2010)

How Is Annie / Friend of Mine

Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson have packaged their sophomore full-length uniquely enough. The Norwegian act offers their second album, a self-titled sprawler, in two parts: Puzzle and The Detective. Both CDs bear four tracks apiece, and are respectively contained in CD envelope sleeves glued to the front and back inside covers of a hardbound book (mine was white)--with album credits, lyrics and a wealth of artwork and photos on the pages of the book. With such effort in making a beautiful, stunning package in a day where digital is becoming the music industry's standard-bearer, you have to wonder if the actual music can hold up at all. And for the most part, it does.

Though the track titles are straight out of a Minus the Bear release circa 2001-2004, Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson dabbles in a warm though more serious sphere of sparkling guitars, layered, emotive singing and occasional string and electronic application to tasteful effect. They have Appleseed Cast's emotional post-rock atmospheres, American Football's drifting tendencies and the delicate vocals of Death Cab for Cutie's We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes. What results is a swelling, captivating album that, despite occasional lulls and a top-heavy presentation, remains a heartbreaking, yearning album from start to finish.

"Let's Rent Bikes from 1942" has this one central hook driven deep ("All the way, / come back to my house"), but it's never overwrought because the band find all the right moments to stick it among the song's soft percussive rolls and textural harmonies between simple, distorted riffs and lightly twinkly, tingling chords. Their hushed delivery is best heard with a dynamic change of volume and approach in "I'd Rather Listen to Weston," which decides to build it back up after breaking it down multiple times. "He Can't Be Dead, I Got His Autograph Last Week" might be making a cute reference to Jimmy Eat World's "Blister" with its repeated couplet "And how long would it take me to walk across for you? To walk across Scandinavia?"; like that song was a more agitated rocker on Clarity, this one is a little bit darker and tense in the context of Puzzle.

The mood--moodier? lighter?--might be hard to comprehend on The Detective opener "Our Door Handles Stopped Moving Years Ago," but its shimmering wind chimes and memorable vocal refrain ("There's been an outbreak of the plague this year, they say. / It's in our heads, it's on our hearts, so take good care and close your eyes.") is beautiful all the same. "The League Will Never Let the Albino Kid Win " does drag for much of it, but its subtle country twang adds a cool element. The first half of "I Think E.T. Is Involved in My Family" picks it up with a heartrending hook and some more comparatively pounding rhythms.

Though it's clear Puzzle is the more essential half of the album, The Detective is still worthwhile. Together, the two make for an hour-plus snapshot of '90s emo, indie and post-rock confluence, a stark effort with some truly entrancing moments. It could be improved with some trims, but as is compels to a very certain extent.

Let's Rent Bikes from 1942 (Puzzle)
I'd Rather Listen to Weston (Puzzle)
To Sit Down or to Follow, So I Follow (Puzzle)
The League Will Never Let the Albino Kid Win (The Detective)
I Think E.T. Is Involved in My Family (The Detective)