It’s instantly apparent we’re in for a profound ride the moment Gang Of Youths’ third album ‘Angel In Realtime.’ begins to play. Flickering keys blossom under Dave Le’aupepe’s aching vocals on opener ‘You In Everything’. He sings as if he’s bearing the unshakable weight of grief on his shoulders: “I prayed the day you passed / but the heavens didn’t listen / so we held you till your dark skin dulled to fair.”
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Le’aupepe lost his father to cancer in 2018, which was always going to loom large on this record. The Sydney-founded band have always been an open book when it comes to matters of the heart and soul. 2015’s debut album ‘The Positions’ channelled the fallout of the frontman’s divorce and subsequent addiction into sincere, bruising indie rock, before 2017’s follow-up ‘Go Farther In Lightness’ shaped that raw emotion into a stadium-ready, ARIA-winning package.
Not long after the album sealed their stardom on home soil, Gang Of Youths upped sticks and moved to London in 2017. Founding guitarist Jojo Malani departed the band and was replaced by Noah And The Whale’s Tom Hobden in 2020. In NME Australia’s January cover story, Le’aupepe said all these factors shaped ‘Angel In Realtime.’, which pulls the soulful grandeur of its predecessor into more polished territory. “We went through so many shifts and changes and I wanted to exhibit those in the music. There was a weird sense of falling back in love with everything I do.”
‘Angel In Realtime.’ is their reaction to such pivotal events, the single ‘In The Wake Of Your Leave’ is a gut-punching response to the intense grief of losing a loved one. On this freewheeling Springsteenesque anthem, Gang Of Youths strive for hope through pain and anguish. Le’aupepe’s opening is both grandiose and self-lacerating: “So as you canyoneered from our world upwards and the angels took their place / I was the loser at your funeral / No emotion conveyed.”
Another highlight is the intimate piano-led ballad ‘Brothers’, on which Le’aupepe unspools hidden truths of his father’s Samoan heritage: “My father’s love was unmistakable / he gave us everything he ever had / I guess he was pretending he was half white / to give his kids a better chance.” Le’aupepe’s exploration of his Pasifika background informs the whole album, with many tracks sampling recordings and music from the South Pacific, bringing a further sense of adventure to the record.
There’s also room for light amidst the waves of loss and reflection. The dizzying excitement of moving to a new country and finding love is at play on ‘The Angel of 8th Ave’, a reflection of Le’aupepe meeting his wife and journeying with her to a “strange new hemisphere.” Replete with pumping guitar and cascading synths, it’s an uplifting epic that will boost the band’s upward trajectory on festival bills everywhere.
Not only does ‘Angel In Realtime.’ serve as a soul-stirring tribute to Le’aupepe’s late father, but it’s also a triumphant exploration of love and life. Though these indie rock grounds have been explored before, by being brutally honest through the healing process, Gang Of Youths have crafted some of their finest work so far. ‘Angel In Realtime.’ is unmistakably a mainstage album, but it shines through its embrace of intimacy and honesty at every turn.
- Release date: February 25
- Record label: Sony (Australia), Warner Records (UK)