A truly DIY debut
Tom Adams
13:41 4th November 2022

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When New York-based publication Consequence described The Haunted Youth’s sound as “guitar-driven and coated in a velvety dream pop haze, reminiscent of Tame Impala or MGMT” at the beginning of last year, it would have been daunting for any artist to stay grounded amid a storm of hype. Yet, for Belgian-born singer, producer and instrumentalist, Joachim Liebens, it became the catalyst for his nostalgic indie-psych pop sound - allowing him to speak his mind and grow his own family of “freaks” along the way. 

Centring around the 29-year old, The Haunted Youth is the self-made project of Liebens and represents a generation of misunderstood misfits unsure of where they stand in the world. Beginning in 2020 during his time at music college, Joachim has always channelled his innermost feelings into his deeply personal discography. Despite only having released seven songs to date, his bittersweet-lyricism masked within captivating electric guitars and synths are dreamy enough to take you to a euphonious nirvana for each song’s hypnotic duration. With each of his previous songs to date, listeners are guided through a spiritual trip into Liebens’ turbulent life. His intimate writing style engulfs listeners within what feels like a distorted reality, that despite appearing hazy on the surface, radiates a sense of belonging, and The Haunted Youth’s debut album, Dawn Of The Freak, is no different. 

Now released to the world via Mayway Records, Dawn Of The Freak becomes The Haunted Youth’s exciting first record, combining four unheard tracks with six previous efforts to form an autobiographical deepdive into Liebens’ past. By intensely exploring themes of fluctuating mental health and vulnerability, Joachim uses up all forty-three minutes and twenty seconds as a form of therapy. He fearlessly opens up all in what feels like a personalised declaration of finding comfort in being an imperfectionist - or as Joachim would say himself slightly more candidly… finding comfort in “being a freak”. 

From the eerie electronic opening title track to the more stripped-down sound of the album’s final song ‘Fist In My Pocket’, Dawn Of The Freak finds a cohesive balance of both lyrical and instrumental prowess throughout. The Haunted Youth’s debut single, ‘Teen Rebel’, remains a standout track, existing as a celebratory memento of Liebens’ youth, yet still with its melancholy undertones in his typical style. The opening riff to ‘Gone’ just two songs later feels like a fitting response to the former by discussing issues of addiction and escapism that all too often surface with age, whilst also making lyrical acknowledgement to Prince’s ‘When Doves Cry’ later in the song. ‘Fist In My Pocket’ aptly closes the album in the form of an acoustic tune unlike anything heard on the other nine tracks. Recorded in just one attempt, Joachim says the song was his most cathartic piece yet. It serves as an overview for everything across the album, representing the feeling of finally finding comfort in somewhere that feels like home, but above all, proving that the family of freaks that are The Haunted Youth of today will eventually find their place of belonging in the world.

Dawn Of The Freak is out now

Grab your copy of the Gigwise print magazine here.

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