There’s a strong argument to make for mountains being the opposite of canyons, but listening to Telegraph Canyon’s You From Before evokes the same emotions I experience when, in my home in central Virginia, I gaze up at the Blue Ridge Mountains. You From Before is suffused with a surreal majesty, folded into the trappings of a welcoming, folksy sound. It’s stirringly beautiful, and though it’s not perfect, You From Before stands as one of the greatest albums I’ve listened to this year.
Right off of the starting line, You From Before knocked me flat. The first track, “Hundred Years,” begins with gentle piano and guitar chords. From there, main vocals start, followed closely by vocal harmonies and some dramatic but unobtrusive drumming. It’s an excellent formula for building up a song towards an exciting climax, but the icing on top of the first track’s cupcakes is reverb. Telegraph Canyon uses reverb to great effect, giving every bit of “Hundred Years” a distinctly dreamlike flavor. As the song moves forward, brass instruments come in, and what was once gentle and beautiful becomes mightily majestic.
But regular compositional skill isn’t the sole strength of You From Before. Telegraph Canyon made bold choices in crafting their album. Each track has a deliciously “low-fi sound, thanks to the constantly fuzzy hiss of white noise beneath the instruments. But it doesn’t come across as a mistake or a consequence of a low budget. On the contrary, it feels like part of the music. It amplifies the aforementioned dreaminess of the first track, “Hundred Years,” while injecting that same surreal feeling into other tracks. The fifth track, “Old Hearts,” for instance, is far more rhythmic than “Hundred Years,” but the bit of white noise gives it an uncanny feeling similar to “Hundred Years.” Consequently, You From Before comes across as an incredibly cohesive album. Every track sounds as though it’s right where it’s meant to be, with not a single note out of place.
Telegraph Canyon also uses an array of sound effects to give their tracks a little more kick. For me, the standout example of this is in the second track, “Flood.” Along with the singer, drums, and guitar, there’s a handful of bleeps and bloops that sound as though they were ripped straight out of a sci-fi film. At first, the sounds catch the listener’s ear due to their strangeness. But the song moves on, and suddenly, they’ve become a crucial component of the song, blending in with the harmonies of the other instruments.
It’s a shame, then, that You From Before‘s cohesiveness is both a blessing and a slight curse. This is an album that demands to be listened to closely in a single sitting, and a lot of people may not like that. Every track on You From Before oozes with skill and sophistication, so a casual listening to only one or two tracks will still be immensely enjoyable, but this album is best enjoyed in one go. One of the greatest features of You From Before is how the whole album comes together, and that togetherness can be lost when listening to only a couple of songs.
But that’s a meager mark against an otherwise amazing album. After listening to it three times, I still find myself floored by the skillful beauty of You From Before. Free up an afternoon and pop in some headphones, play it in your car on a road trip, but whatever you do, listen to this album. It’s artful, beautiful, and a whole lot of other good terms that end in “-ful.” You From Before demands and deserves attention, so do yourself a favor and give the album what it wants.
*Image from Velvet Blue Music