Vocalist Mads Damsgaard Kristiansen and bassist Esben Valløe started making music under the moniker “Reptile Youth” in 2009, and though it took the duo three years to releases its debut record, it wasn’t because of a lack of focus. In the interim, the Denmark-based two-piece has been making a name for itself by touring the globe and along with memorable live performances.
Even without an album to its name, the dance rock outfit was able to secure spots at notable festivals including Iceland Airwaves, Reeperbahn Festival, Unit Tokyo and Roskilde Festival as the only band without a release. But this month, everything has changed. With producers Dave M. Allen (The Cure, Sisters of Mercy) and Marc Ralph (Hot Chip) at the helm, Reptile Youth recorded and released an eponymous debut album.
With the amount of energy Kristiansen and Valløe exert in their live shows, the same would be expected in their recordings, but unfortunately the ten songs that comprise the full-length did not translate as such in the studio. It may be because of the anticipation set by the band touring heavily before releasing a record, but the tracks sound a bit flat. The album begins with “Black Swan Born White,” a song led by Kristiansen’s Luke Jenner-esque vocals as he nonchalantly croons over minimalist instrumentation of bass, guitar, percussion and keys. The music sounds good—there’s no doubt that this band is talented—but there’s something missing. It’s as if each musician had played each part to exhaustion and the result is something lacking soul.
Though most of the album seems forced, it does have its bright moments, the highlight being its first single, “Speeddance.” This is the song that helped Reptile Youth garner so many fans before releasing its LP, and for good reason. The track begins with a funky bass line and romping percussion, so by the time Kristiansen’s vocals come in, it’s already an infectious tune. As one of the shortest tracks on the album, this one is concise. There is no filler, just raw, reckless energy. This is the track that should have molded the album.
The duo gets close again with “Heart Blood Beat,” a dance-inducing, synth-heavy song that features whistling (always gotta give extra points for that!). Cut from the same cloth as “Speeddance,” this track shows the potential that Reptile Youth possesses. Next time around, Kristiansen and Valløe need to pull from their live performance charisma and emanate that energy in the studio. If they can pull this off, their sophomore album will be something to talk about.