Wanderlust is an innate human desire. For many people however, the inclination to travel is deterred by habit. The mundane day-to-day dictates a limited worldly outlook while repetitive routine detains exploratory minds within a familiar, comfortable rut. Breaking away from that rut can be intimidating, almost as if you’re breaking society’s unspoken rules of engagement. But as 19th century transcendentalist and women’s rights activist Margaret Fuller so wisely said, “Nature provides exceptions to every rule.”
Conner Youngblood’s sophomore album Cheyenne rips a page straight out of Fuller’s figurative biography and hands it to listeners as a purposely unfocused travel brochure. The album coerces people to climb out of their tiresome ruts and experience everything the world has to offer beyond their typical sphere of influence. It values nature’s beauty over societal ordinance, promoting Youngblood’s travels not as a means to escape, but as a vessel to personal enlightenment. The key word there is “personal” – although Youngblood draws attention to his family and relationships, his songs are extremely introverted and musing. It’s as if Youngblood’s cosmopolitan conscience is talking out loud and listeners just happen to be around to hear it.
As a Texas-born, Nashville-based musician, globetrotting is an evident cornerstone of Conner Youngblood’s life. Yet, even while Youngblood bases Cheyenne off of his lessons as a journeyman, he doesn’t seem to have an individual destination in mind. Every track on Cheyenne is coated with shades of nature’s beauty, but specific song topics are loose, fleeting memories that Youngblood references as broad-based lessons to guide his freedom.
Take the title track “Cheyenne” for example. The entire song is lyrically encompassed within two brief sentences about a distant relationship, stating “You came in the room, left the same, and I should’ve shouted out your name. But now as I wait here and think, knowing I will never see her again.” When, where, and who this song is about is a complete mystery, yet Youngblood continues to melodically hum for the rest of the song as if to use his music as a coping mechanism catered towards an intensely affecting flashback.
As you make your way through each song, it becomes more and more apparent that a lot of these ambiguous places, memories, and lessons are being used as a blank slate to personally explain away Youngblood’s headaches and misfortunes. He doesn’t connect well with people, but he connects well with places; they provide him with a deeply rooted network into his innermost emotions. With a city, place, or idea that he has little to no technical contact with (i.e. Youngblood has never been to Finland or Yellowknife), he can be much more creative filling that song with a sensitive stimulant as a means to cleanse his conscience of otherwise unrelated anguish. He explained this minimalist approach to his creative latitude in an interview with Noisey, telling them:
“You can almost express more if you don’t know something too well, rather than have limits and borders on your perception of what it’s supposed to be. I still don’t like talking too much about my emotions and I’m pretty shy. I’m still hiding all these things inside of metaphor, and I’ve been placing these people inside of places as a coping mechanism to discuss my feelings.”
The feelings that Conner Youngblood smoothly infuses into his peaceful songs in are instrumentally immense. On top of producing the majority of Cheyenne on his own with the help of only one lone engineer, Youngblood literally employs dozens of instruments from all over the world in his all-embracing musical scrapbook. These instruments are both normal and obscure, suggesting that a typical three-to-five piece band would have been a major limitation in conveying Cheyenne’s worldly message. Sure, you’ll hear guitars, drums, and the like, but you’ll also hear bongos, a didgeridoo, an accordion, and other instruments that you never knew existed. His liberal approach to sound production makes Cheyenne feel internationally inclusive, inviting people of all shapes and sizes to indulge in his sedative trek.
Favorite Tracks: Red.23, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Cheyenne, Sulphur Springs, My Brother’s Brother, Yellowknife