ALBUM: When I Was Younger
ARTIST: Colony House
Colony House, a name that seems to take on different meanings the longer you contemplate it, is the group formerly known as CALEB. They changed their name in 2010 to unite the band closer with its roots. Their second title, Colony House, was the name of the first apartment complex some of the band members called home. They wanted to keep up the reference to their small town Franklin, Tennessee geneses. But fittingly enough, Colony House implies a cluster of sorts within a larger encompassing frame. The constantly altering sound and style within their debut full-length album When I Was Younger places it as the frame and the music within it as a shifting center that makes up the cluster.
The triad rock, pop, indie, albeit religious band was founded by brothers Caleb and Will Chapman, and shortly thereafter joined by friend Scott Mills on the guitar. They hail from a famous Christian musician and “soul-activist” Steven Curtis Chapman, who cultivated a brief history in the mainstream between devoutly spiritual album releases. This influence shines light on the organizational approach Colony House took to their album to line the end with religious content.
The album opens and it sounds light, fun and the listener expects substance that is one dimensional. “Nothing silhouettes ‘til the lights come on”, renders an image that falls on the cheekier side of artistic. It seems their contribution may simply be a familiar pop song sentiment that observes a more creative platform. Colony House surprises the listener not with each individual track, but with their breadth of sound and genre across When I Was Younger. The first few songs on the album have distinctly different sounds. It’s as if they come from entirely random directions compositionally, and are tied together through a vague familiarity of sound. “When I Was Younger”, the title track song, introduces elements of mystic ethereal noises and dramatic 80’s pop. While cushioned by a track in between, it’s a far cry from the beachy essence at the beginning of the album.
Colony House has a crafty hand when it comes to making catchy chorus lines. Simple rhymes and witty quips fly by in a majority of the tracks before the listener can fully register the entirety of what is been said. Their repetition of the line “leaving and escaping aren’t the same, on one track, for example, places a heavier emphasis on the phrase, and it begins to take on a variance of meanings. It lacks the rhyme, but doubles up on impressive quality in songwriting. When I Was Younger expresses elements in both musicality and lyrics that have reflections of Maroon 5, Portugal, The Man, Artic Monkeys, and The Black Keys moment to moment.
Thematically, their songwriting begins as straightforward and uncomplicated. The messages are of love and encouragement. Half way through, the mood changes dramatically. “Today is not my day”, begins the solemn intermediary between the first and second halves. Though backed by a cheery snapping and tapping, the message has clearly become clouded. Caleb Chapman cites where his discrepancy in sound may come from, “As the primary songwriter, I […] am inspired by men like Jonny Cash and Tom Waits. Two of my biggest influences in song crafting would be my father, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Jon Foreman from Switchfoot.” These artists listed are all exceptionally different, making for a strange amalgamation of flavors to reference.
The tail end of the album When I Was Younger becomes remarkably religious and spiritual with reference to blood stained hands, being saved, and Jesus himself. The change of topic seems to indicate an awakening to Christian ideologies later in life, or a hesitancy to express such doctrines to the listener earlier on. The choice has its pros and cons, but the listener leaves at rick for feeling slighted or mislead. Sliding heavy opinions of sensitive topics like religion onto a listener who thought they were getting simplistic indie rock album is a dangerous move.
“Leaving and escaping aren’t the same.”