Music

‘Infinite Youth’ by Merk is one of 2021’s best psychedelic albums

Sophomore album Infinite Youth from Merk injects a hard-hitting dose of sentimentality into his trademark hazy style.

We’ve been hooked on the musical musings of New Zealand artist Merk since his synth-soaked dopamine hit of a track Hang. Merk has now treated his expanding audience to his newest full-length via Humblebrag Records after an array of colourful singles.

Infinite Youth is full of quirky boogies and material worth pondering over, so let’s take a closer look at this eclectic release.

Merc

The first track, H.N.Y.B (happy new year, baby), paints a soundscape of bloated synths, muted funk bass, and laidback drumming. However, it’s the opening line that completely stuns: “Last night at your house, I think I felt things that I’ve never felt before in my life”.

It’s this pairing of lighthearted instrumentation with considered observations that makes Infinite Youth such an alluring record. There’s the groove for your body, then some lyrical substance for your brain to tussle with.

Next up is the upbeat slice of indie pop, GOD.  With its warm vocal layerings and endless hooks, Parcels feels like an influence. That being said, Merk’s production style is far hazier.

Falsettoed melodies and a bongo-led rhythm highlight the bouncing American Parties. “Cuz we all just wanna go to America and American parties”, Merk cheekily quips, underlining the west’s indoctrination by the aspirational American lifestyle.

Continuing down the tracklist, Laps Around The Sun tackles the monotony of time and its tendency to move faster and faster. Glowing synth pads and swelling strings back Merk’s growing list of gut-punchers, like “and we’re only getting older, circling forever, like the earth and moon together”.

While the tone is washed with warm colours, it’s clear this a worrying thought at the forefront of Merk’s mind. No drums or percussion accompany this track, making it the album’s most salient moment.

Meanwhile, the gentle Canoe Song sounds like what would happen if you linked Sufjan Stevens, Car Seat Headrest, and Mac Demarco up for a studio session. Though only clocking in at 1:24, the complex vocal harmonies, understated acoustic, and lucid storytelling (“we are the infinite youth, holding our breath in the pool”) will reward re-listens immensely.

At this point in the record, you’ll begin to understand why Infinite Youth took two years to complete. Merk has been thinking of the listener’s experience through and through.

Deep Dive is another standout. The disco beat and spinning synths create a breezy backdrop for Merk to paint his dreamy melodies over. Pay close attention, and you’ll catch some low-end strings and voice memos of a particularly brilliant St. Paul’s Cathedral organist. These dark strings continue into the brutally honest Happiness, which I won’t spoil for you.

Title track Infinite Youth bookends the record. Fascinatingly, the lyrics of The Canoe Song are repeated, strengthening their impact. They continue into a more detailed story, to a grandiose soundscape of a booming snare, strings, hypnotic synths, and ambient percussion. When the bass finally enters, and the tight groove settles in, it’s too late. You’ll be drifting in the clouds, wondering where the time’s gone.

On his Instagram, Merk expressed hope that these songs will “give to you as much as they’ve given to me”. This makes Infinite Youth a promise fulfilled, as well as a must-listen for lovers of indie pop, warm production, and frankly, remarkable lyricism.

 

Infinite Youth is out now via Humblebrag Records. Stream or purchase your copy here.