This is the first Young People album to feature just two main players. Original band member Jeff Rosenberg left the group in 2004, and since then, the remaining members, Jarrett Silverman and Katie Eastburn have been corresponding and writing songs by mail.
This unusual method of writing seems to have benefited the group enormously. Rather than rehearse songs face to face, thrashing out solutions and tunes face to face, the circumstances that the group have found themselves in have contributed to the sound of the record.
The first thing to strike you about All At Once is the sheer amount of space within the songs. Instrumentation is used sparingly; occasionally it provides glimpses of tunes, but for the most part it does little more than provide a setting for Eastburn’s vocals. So while the slightly avant-garde piano and guitar creates impressionistic landscapes, Eastburn steals the show with her haunting approach.
At times it is barely possible to make out exactly what she is singing about, the words collapsing into inaudible coos or building to terrifying shrieks. Apparently some of the songs on All At Once are written with about Eastburn’s concern for her brother, a soldier who was serving in Iraq. Perhaps it is unsurprising then, that many of the songs are meditations with titles like Dark Rainbow, Your Grave, and Reapers. In addition, the songs are rife with a feel of uncertainty, which seems likely to be attributable to the writing process, and Eastburn’s worry for her brother.
The songs here are short and the album itself only lasts about 30 minutes. Despite this, and even after repeated listens, the textures and directions of the songs always feel fresh. Not only do the sparse arrangements allow Eastburn to enchant with her siren like singing, but also, they allow the listener to become ensnared in the song. You’re never quite sure where the she’s taking you. You become lost in the arrangement, entangled in whispered emotion, and jabbed at with skewed piano and random drums.
While some bands are content to assault the listener with a wall of sound, pounding you into submission; Young People are obviously believers in the idea of less is more. A single vocal and a simple bass lick can feel like too much too bear at times, as if you are feeling everything all at one. It is more than worthwhile getting lost in space with these Young People.