I discovered Toronto-based Young Empires five years ago when they opened for fellow Canucks, Dragonette. They’re an indie pop band composed of vocalist and keyboardist, Matthew Vlahovich; bassist, Jacob Palahnuk; and drummer Taylor Hill. I’ve been a fan since wearing out their debut EP Wake All My Youth. Now they’re back with their sophomore record The Gates, to be released on Sept. 4, so it was cool to see them in the intimate setting of Webster Hall’s Marlin Room to hear their new stuff.
They opened with two new songs I didn’t know, ‘Mercy’ and ‘Houselights’ before playing two already released singles, ‘So Cruel’ and ‘Sunshine.’ The former has had a lot of play on my Spotify lately. Aside from solid songs, hooky ‘oh oh ohs‘ featured on many tracks, I am mesmerized by Vlahovich’s vocals. Commanding and pure are the two words that come to mind. He’s up there with some of my other favorite male vocalists like Tom Chaplin of Keane.
His voice is showcased well on two tracks from their last EP, ‘Rain of Gold’ and ‘White Doves,’ which were very pleasing to the sparse crowd in the venue. But I have to give the guys big kudos for the new material; I really liked what I heard. I’m particularly fond of their title track, ‘The Gates.’ Its message of loneliness, crossroads in life and the relentless pursuit of finding oneself spoke to me. It’s an introvert’s anthem. ‘You’re not alone. You’re not alone. You’re not alone.’