Young Guv — GUV I (Aug. 2, 2019)
••     Toto je jeden z těch rychle se pohybujících disků zkázy. Je na nás, abychom tomu zabránili. Je to malé, barevné, přátelské a šité na míru pro srdce, která mají své jizvy ukryté pod krunýřem každodenního života a času. Nenechme to odejít pryč, zanedbané špatnou vůlí algoritmů. Pouze tři z osmi stop přesahují tři minuty. „Luv Always“, třetí na albu, má hned v úvodu nezaměnitelné aróma zvuků á la Byrds, které mohlo pocházet od vnuka Rogera McGuinna, manipulujícího s jeho slavným oranžovým Rickenbakerem v jakékoli garáži. „High On My Mind“: dokonalá melodie, podpůrné vokály, padající z nebe, krásné texty o nemožné lásce, múzy, která je před námi pořád, ale sentimentálně, stejně tak daleko vzdálená. Kdo to nikdy nežil?
••     Indie/power pop solo project from prolific Toronto~based musician Ben Cook, who also plays in Canadian hardcore band Fucked Up.
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Album release: August 2, 2019
Record Label: Run For Cover
Duration:     22:44
1 Patterns Prevail   2:49
2 Roll wit Me   2:33
3 Every Flower I See   3:18
4 Luv Always   3:00
5 Didn’t Even Cry   3:29
6 High on My Mind   2:51
7 Exceptionally Ordinary   2:09
8 Boring Story   2:35
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra; Score: ****
••     Working under the Young Guv name, it’s never clear what Ben Cook’s restless musical soul is going to do next. He’s made lo~fi indie pop, slickly cooked bedroom R&B, and throbbing new wave in the past, and sometimes all three at once. On 2019’s GUV I, Cook sets his sights on re~creating the glory days of early~’90s power pop and does it masterfully. The record sounds like Teenage Fanclub recording in a broom closet, or Sloan in a garden shed, mainlining Big Star hooks and gulping soda pop fizz as they knock out pristine, chiming, lovely tunes one after the next. Cook works this magic all by himself, using rich layers of jangling guitar, vocals — both winsome leads and sweet harmonies — and rock~solid rhythms to construct a shimmering, homemade sound that’s evidence that no matter how many times it seems that power pop is buried for good, there’s always some weirdo ready to dig it back up and show the old~timers some new(ish) tricks. Cook has done his homework and shows off his knowledge on the stately boogie of “Every Flower I See”; the 12~string packed “Luv Always,” which sounds like the song Matthew Sweet has been looking for to jumpstart his career; the murky college rock “Roll wit Me,” and “Didn’t Even Cry,” a melancholy ballad that makes Cook’s devotion to Big Star’s Chris Bell very clear. Sure, he’s got the skills down, but he’s not just aping what his teachers told him, he’s putting his own heart and soul into the work. He also gives the power pop formula an important twist that helps him stand out from all the others who have tried to breathe life into the style over the years.
••     While the songs would no doubt sound perfectly good with more sonic buffering and a spotless studio sheen, the rough edges and slightly unfinished feel of Guv 1 give it a wobbly, very human feel that’s too often missing in power pop. Pair this interesting sound with some songs that are going to be lodged deep in the brains of those lucky enough to hear them and Cook has come up with a true work of tiny, very specific genius. Take the tapes back in time to 1992 or so, and Young Guv would be right in holy firmament of that era’s power pop scene right next to Mr. Sweet, Teenage Fanclub, Sloan, and Velvet Crush. Maybe even slightly ahead, or at least a little to the left, of a few of them. It’s certainly the best power pop anyone is likely to hear in 2019.
by Arielle Gordon, Score: 6.7
•⊆⊇•     Moreover, Cook is a pop poet — his credits as a ghostwriter for artists like Sum 41 and Taylor Swift outshine his heavier origins here — and his sweetly romantic lyrics and “yeah yeahs” are a natural fit for dusty guitars. His lovelorn anxiety can feel nostalgic in itself: “I am rocky waters/And you are crystal clear,” he sings on “Patterns Prevail,” as if matters of the heart could be so black and white. His most memorable lyrics are just quirky enough to stand out, yet general enough to attach to any romance. “Do you ever watch the clouds while remembering me?” he asks, gently hopeful. As a refrain, it’s awkward — a bit wordy, a bit stoned. But for members of the New Sincerity crowd who own too many band tees, that’s not such a bad thing. (excerpt)  •• 
••    Ben Cook doesn’t like talking about his music but he understands it. “To me Young Guv songs are like people~watching in a foreign country in the morning,” he says, ever the master of the vivid metaphor. “I’m there and I’m trying not to cry from the overwhelming feeling of sadness and happiness.”
••    As it happened, when the new songs started coming in May 2018, Ben was in a foreign country, albeit one — the U.S.A. — where he knew his way around, and could speak the language, observe local custom, and blend in, effectively disappearing, into the streetscape, into thoughts and longings, and, inevitably, back into his Brooklyn apartment (he had to be close to the New Jersey studio where he was producing the new Terror record) in the confines of which he wrote a song every single day. The daily pattern of hard~won creativity borne of observing eternal, mysterious patterns of human behaviour, his own and everyone else’s, yielded the penetrating theme of the album’s opener, “Patterns Prevail”: “All these secrets drive me crazy,” sings Aurora Shields, Ben’s frequent collaborator. “Colours shift between the shading / I can see patterns prevailing.”
••    People~watching in a foreign country. Another way of putting that would be to say that Young Guv songs are about being alone. As the years have passed, as material and social conditions have conspired to make everyone feel increasingly alone, Ben has built a Guv discography out of invoking the desolation that arises when you’re isolated in physical and mental space but surrounded nonetheless by millions of other isolated, solitary people, literally any one of whom you could, for all you know, love with all your heart for the rest of your life, but almost none of whom, you’re forced to admit, will become anything more than a briefly transfixing stranger, at best a wraith that recurrently haunts your dreams. Ben encapsulates the vicious cycle on “Roll Wit Me”: “I can’t place who you are / So familiar and brand new / What is it that you’ve got / So effortlessly cool / You don’t have to look at all / Ya why would you anyways / All I wanna do is talk / I just don’t know what to say / But I can’t wake up in my bed / Alone another day.”
••    Ben calls GUV I, the new album, “a little ode to the place that blessed me such love and inspiration to create so many songs I felt comfortable sharing with everyone.” The city told him, in its aloof way, that a great record was waiting to be written and, most important, to be offered like a bouquet of flowers to the people of the world, in a humble act of love and communion. Ben’s been a true songwriter long enough to have recognized, and heeded, the coded command when it came. He’s since moved back to NYC and plans to stay awhile.