Just in time for summer, powerpop-slash-bubblegrungers Charly Bliss return with their sophomore record. “It’s gonna break my heart to see you blown to bits,” sings Eva Hendricks joyfully on the opening track, proof a chorus can be delivered with the passive aggression of a smiling emoji.
Where before her lyrics were forthright and embarrassing for those she was addressing, now they are adolescent, cheeky and idealistic in equal measure. “We’re young enough to believe it should hurt this much” is a moment of sincerity in the album’s title track from a band known for sounding bratty, as if coming to take their own emotions seriously for the first time.
Their debut album Guppy was drenched in bubblegum pink, Hendricks sounding childlike over power-pop guitars. Young Enough introduces electronic textures, a shift from the consequence-free bare bones from before to a sound that, while still youthful, carries more weight.
Lead single Capacity looks inward over a synth bassline, Hendricks singing “I’m at capacity, I’m spilling out of me” over drummer Sam Hendricks’ contemplative and steady beat. She says she finds it easiest to frame the darkest lyrics in songs like this, with upbeat and melodic hooks. It’s true of Hard to Believe too, about the cyclical nature of bad relationships, which has one of 2019’s catchiest choruses.
Producer Joe Chiccarelli has kept the band’s bite while they explore this poppy territory, but in doing so has made an extremely loud record. Both guitars and vocals become fuzzy when turned up past a certain point, making for a crack in the refined pop sheen. When Hendricks’ and Spencer Fox’s guitars kick in on Camera – a sonically beautiful track, from the clean tones to the lullaby melodies – this distortion feels misplaced.
Pushing the levels into the red aside, Young Enough sounds like it’s in technicolour compared to what came before, imbuing these songs with a newfound sense of gravitas. It means the mid-2000s-esque chorus of Chatroom stays on the right side of heartfelt, memorable and primed for crowds to dance to, loaded with the band’s charm and widescreen vision.
That feeling is Young Enough’s greatest asset. While Guppy is a great album, it’s also a very particular one with a mood that would result in diminishing returns if repeated. Here, the band have naturally progressed into something with control and competency, more aware of what they are capable of. Proudly pop with a sneering edge, they now sound elated to wear their heart on their sleeve, but are all too aware of the dangers that come with that. Proof that the best pop songs are ones to both dance and cry to.
Young Enough is out now, via Lucky Number.