Dawn Chorus #13: Christians and Lions – Young Familiar

Dawn Chorus #13: Christians and Lions – Young Familiar

There is something about the changing season, as leaves colour their way toward falling and the morning’s freeze our breath into clouds, which makes orchestrated dreampop full of pastorals and a dose of melancholy the perfect soundtrack. Christians and Lions fit that bill pretty well with new release Young Familiar. 

Christians and Lions Young Familiar artworkArtist: Christians and Lions
Album: Young Familiar
Label: Self-released

Year of release: 2019
Genre: Dreampop, folk, indie, dreamfolk

“I think it started in school / they taught me ignorance of privilege / we were a nation at war / that didn’t seem to know the difference”

Young Familiar, the first album in a decade from Rhode Island DIY folk collective Christians and Lions is deeply etched with imagery of magic, from the Pagan to the Occult, and reflections on how we’re shaped from Russian psyche to American politics. It is a record which looks for escape in the otherworldly as much as it hopes to find a means of explaining feeling out of step with the times you find yourself living through, a subtle manifesto for standing true in a time of lies.

Musically there are echoes of The Felice Brothers, Beirut, Davey Graham and plenty of ’70s folk – it’s well crafted if not boundary pushing but the familiarity of the style only serves to underline the lyrical tensions. Ben Potrykus, at the center of this collective, may be better known for the indie standards of Bent Shapes, but with Christians and Lions the sound takes on pastoral, Country, and grassroots elements of the genre. Young Familiar moves on too from their previous works, feeling more detailed and intricate, the intervening years between releases maturing their sound finely.

Opening with ‘The Changeling’ the prickling of political dissonance set against the warmth of accordion, brass, and the oscillation of a singing saw. Anger here is brooding and contained, juxtaposed with the lilt of the melodies, a dark track pin-pricked with light. The Bent Shapes rounded guitar is heard elsewhere on the album (‘Tell The Keeper’, ‘Tender Offer’) but it is the folksy takes which lift this album – the bounce of the upright bass and crashing percussion polka of ‘Palekh’ with the good-natured brass, and the mirrored melody played on guitar a surprise highlight.

The imagery too in the literate lyrics, the ideas of death and rebirth expressed subtly through nature and melodies as gentle as the rise and fall of a rabbit’s chest beneath velvet fur. Closer ‘Wild Shade’ brings this all together, an off-kilter reflection of the opening track, with a soothing ebb and flow of strings and brass that over three minutes cast a spell to draw you back into this album from the beginning once more.

Dawn Chorus is a week day feature sharing an album to listen to on your morning commute, the school run, or at other times with the intention of surfacing classics you might not have given time to yet, indulging in old favourites, and helping you discover the best of new releases. If you’d like to suggest an album for the feature, or contribute a guest write up on an album you think more people should hear, get in touch

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Sarah Lay

Sarah Lay is editor of Popoptica.
A long-standing music journalist she's also co-founder of independent record label Reckless Yes, an author of novels, and when not messing around with words and music, a digital strategist.
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