A possibly controversial opinion I have is that it should be illegal for anyone younger than me to have talent or experience success. When I was one of the only people to not really like that Phoebe Bridgers album last year, I did consider the possibility that it was a result of petty ageism and part of my ongoing transformation into a grumpy old guy who spends his days yelling at kids — not to get off my lawn, since at this point it’s unlikely I’ll ever own a lawn, but just generally yelling at them about nothing in particular. On the other hand, I haven’t really grown up in any meaningful sense, so in theory I shouldn’t have a problem enjoying music by young people about young people things, right?
Pastel, the new album by FRITZ, is the type of young person music I’ve been yearning for. Instead of cultivating a false sense of world-weariness or a weird, otherworldly maturity, 21-year-old Tilly Murphy sings songs about growing up and not having everything figured out. The title track is about dying her hair blue and developing her own confidence and identity; the ode to young friendship, “Die Happily,” tells the aftermath of a teen sleepover, where “Froot Loops and soda covered the floor.” “Jan 1” ends the album with a rush of guitar adrenaline, and its lyrics are a relatable portrayal of end-of-year anxiety and the desire for self-improvement. For all the talk about generation gaps, Pastel makes a decent case that a lot of these feelings and experiences don’t really change.
The construction of a memorable pop song doesn’t really change, either, and Murphy’s most prodigious gift is her ability to write catchy riffs and soaring melodies that fit into a classic framework. Pastel‘s fuzzy, occasionally jangly sound is a throwback to more pop-centric shoegaze groups, or early twee pop like Tiger Trap and Black Tambourine that made loud guitars seem sticky sweet. She buries her voice a bit beneath the wall of sound, but it’s still easy to pick up on most of her lyrics, which are simply written, intended to evoke authentic young feelings instead of reading like a soliloquy. That’s part of why Pastel has a distinctive voice and personality to it, which is often the missing ingredient in shoegaze or fuzz rock, and a lot of what’s making me happy about this album is its ability to modernize these sounds while also understanding what makes them appealing to so many listeners in the first place. There’s a delicate balance of old and new ideas on here, and also a blend of moods (angst, anxiety, happiness, sadness) that reflect the carefree days of youth and the bittersweet feelings of growing up.