Childhood: Universal High (Marathon Artists) Review | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, August 18th, 2022  

Issue #61 - Grizzly Bear

Universal High

Marathon Artists

Jul 20, 2017 Issue #61 - Grizzly Bear Bookmark and Share

London's Childhood, with one strong contender of an album under their belts (2014's debut, Lacuna), left Brixton in their rearview mirrors and headed west to mine inspiration from the rich vein of funk-pop in the United States. Though you'd posit from from the initial single, "California Light," that the album was recorded in Los Angeles, not in Atlanta with producer Ben H Allen III (Gnarls Barkley, Deerhunter), as the track sways with the sunburst melancholia of great West Coast cinema; American Graffiti comes to mind.

This feeling, the sense of finding respite in paradise to escape heartbreak is the through-line of this record. Taking the vocal duties, Ben Romans-Hopcraft is extending his voice beyond the wink-nod, hushed charisma of Lacuna. He instead commits to a falsetto that channels the soul greats and leaves plenty of space in the middle of the mix for challenging instrumentation.

The final track on the album, "Monitor," finds a perfect balance between "quality vibe" and "pop sensibility," if such a scale were to exist. Potentially the strongest track on the record, the playtime is long enough for the bassline and playful electronics to coalesce into a steady groove. So many tracks on Universal High boast these incredible, disarming choruses that occasionally and regrettably eclipse instrumentals that, given more time, could develop into even tighter jams.

Lyrically speaking, Universal High is a mixed bag. Most tracks detail a faltering relationship through the lens of a self-deprecating evaluation of Romans-Hopcraft's character. "On my own is where I belong/It's hard to relate from singing these songs," he croons on "Melody Says." It's a refreshing step away from the anti-culpability of 'nice-boy' singers like Ed Sheeran and the ilk. Ultimately, the record is a lot of fun and will sit best with those who avoid taking life and love too seriously. (

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Spring 2017 Issue (April/May/June 2017), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

Support Under the Radar on Patreon.

Author rating: 7/10

Rate this album
Average reader rating: 5/10


Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published


Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

There are no comments for this entry yet.