As a term of musical reference, symphonic pop feels faintly oxymoronic. Pop in its most instinctive form is not meant for grand statements; it's short, stabbing, and to the point. Overblown orchestration shouldn't really come into it.
Yet a closer inspection of the last 50 years shows the collision of symphony and pop works. The Beach Boys were, of course, kings of the craft. In the last decade, Panda Bear, Arcade Fire, and Grizzly Bear have all, to some extent, taken up the mantle, producing huge, ear-filling arrangements imbued with a distinctly poppy edge.
It's remarkably easy, then, to imagine Young Dreams mingling freely amidst this roll call of acts. The Norwegian collective's debut long player, Between Places, is possibly more symphonic than it is pop. Each track is ambitious and meticulously honed, gravitating around woozy melodies that lilt like palm trees in a West Coast breeze.
On a surface level, it's an incredibly easy and rewarding listen. "First Days of Something" is a doe-eyed,Graceland-infected earworm that swells into a summer-pop cacophony. Album closer "Young Dreams" touches on dreamy acoustics before revealing its harmonious swoon, peaking on hope-filled declarations of "We'll live forever."
Such simplicity, however, disguises the architectural craft behind this record. "Footprints," the buoyant album opener, is an entanglement of thumping percussion and seismic brass parps. "Fog of War" is just as beguiling, drifting in with Matias Tellez's drum-backed a cappella before its combination of keys and violins creates a dazzling, cloud-floating daze.
While Animal Collective comparisons will probably never be too far away, Young Dreams tend to stick to more accessible textures-even during 11-minute beach-combing opus "The Girl That Taught Me to Drink and Fight." Oxymoronic it may be, but symphonic pop doesn't come much more natural or sweeping than this.