“Hold it Together,” the parting shot of Youth Revisited, the first LP from HERS’ Melissa Amstutz since shedding her project’s previous name, Honeybee & Hers, lingers long after the music stops. “I am your godless woman/I’ll be singing at your funeral.” The honeybee may be gone, but there’s definitely a sting in the tail.
As the title implies, Youth Revisited is a mirror turned on the past; the turbulent path to identity, the difficulties that come with not knowing yourself and the difficulties that come when you find out. It is a deeply personal record, but one that doesn’t have much use for melancholy. It gets dark, but not despondent. “Bad” succinctly sums up the stance from the start: the self-examination will be brutally honest (“I’ve been so bad”), but judge not lest ye be judged (“What would you have done instead?”).
The music of Honeybee & Hers wasn’t strictly sweetness and light, but the dozen tracks on Youth Revisited are markedly more jagged, even aggressive at times. “Hell,” which concerns a dream of the afterlife that involves night driving and roller skating (“Black and white and laces tight/If this is hell I like it all right”), quickly shifts from a quiet recollection to a building swirl of guitar and overlapping maxed-out vocals until it collapses in on itself in less than three minutes. The brief fuzzed out garage march of “Thrills” (“I can’t even hear my body”) speeds and slows until it has given all it can.
The catharsis is balanced with a subtle streak. “C&S (Youth Revisited)” recalls Cat Power circa Moon Pix, and, aside from what sounds like a saxophone in the mix, the indie rock of “Wild One” is fairly straightforward, if misleadingly upbeat (“I swear I can/Make you happy again”). Amstutz’s songwriting range matches the spectrum and nuance of emotions aired out on Youth Revisited. If not a major reinvention, the turn in creative direction is something HERS can continue to mature into.