Hidden Youth: Endless Vibes Inspired by the Desert

Flashback to April 2021 when my music taste changed for the better. I first discovered Surfaces and their unique, airy, and joyful music during the lead-up to the release of their fourth album, Pacifico. Fast forward a year and it’s July 29, 2022, they are about to release the third single to the upcoming fifth album they just announced, Hidden Youth. Hidden Youth is a joyful ride embodying the feeling of nostalgic youth as Surfaces takes you on a trip “Into the Desert.”

Surfaces are an indie pop/pop group based out of College Station, Texas comprised of Forrest Frank and Colin Padalecki. They released their first album, Surf, in 2017 and since then they’ve expanded their sound past their initial inspiration from psychedelic rock to incorporate modern pop elements as well. Surf (2017), Where the Light Is (2019), Horizons (2020), and Pacifico (2021), all previous Surfaces albums, are heavily inspired by the outdoors, in particular, the beach and sunsets. During their writing process for their upcoming projects, the duo takes trips anywhere from 10 days to a month-long to various locations where they can only focus on music. These excursions provide the artists a sanctuary to solely focus on writing music and allow them to connect with their environment. This produces songs that deeply symbolize the location they were written in.

For Hidden Youth, Forrest, Colin, and their friend Conrad Hsiang (Public Library Commute) took a trip to Joshua Tree National Park to switch up their inspiration from bodies of water to the layers of the desert. In an interview with People Magazine, Padalecki highlighted the change in scenery that inspired them to write this album. “Around us, there were beautiful sunsets, beautiful cacti and vegetation. And we went on trails and we climbed the rock mountains and it felt very adventurous — a very honest and open time to express ourselves and capture the energy of that.” You can feel the warmth of the desert as you listen to this album, especially in the opening track “Into the Desert” which I like to describe to people as “1 minute of bliss.” The desert is infused into every single one of the tracks and is a fresh divergence from their previous projects.

Hidden Youth is the epitome of a perfect album front-to-back. One thing I admire about this album is its ability to be shuffled or played in order and still deliver an escapist experience. For first-time listeners, I recommend you listen in order just to get the whole story from beginning to end and then when you go back to listen the ability to shuffle provides the same experience. The album consists of 14 songs with a runtime of 42 minutes which is a perfect and consumable length. My only critique of the album would be that I wanted more songs to listen to. As for the features on the album, the only one comes on the song “Hold Onto Me Baby” which features Felly. The limited features on the album feel appropriate because Hidden Youth feels more personal to Forrest and Colin compared to their other albums. The story of the album is about the duo’s youth that the desert brought out of them which is heavily influenced by their own life experiences. 

They refer to each album release period as a “season” so, to begin Season 5 of Surfaces’ career, they released their first single “I Can’t Help But Feel” in April 2022. The album was released in August so to shorten the waiting process they released two more singles, “What’s Been On Your Mind?” in June and finally, “Rooftops” in July. In addition to releasing the three singles, they also used social media to aid their album release in conjunction with promoting their upcoming tour.

When it comes to the album cover art, Surfaces did not disappoint and there was certainly no lack of their iconic pastel colors. Their previous albums, as mentioned before, were inspired by bodies of water and sunsets, however, this time the desert provided a change of scenery that was reflected in the album art. In the same interview with People Magazine, Colin said “we wanted to mess around with topography and give it layers…[the desert] had so much depth to it.” The cover art features a mountain that morphs into the two band members while in the background, rays of sunlight are incorporated into the design as well. The colors are soft and warm and radiate with desert energy.

This album has been on repeat for the past seven months that it has been out. In that time I’ve emotionally attached myself to a number of these songs. Notable tracks on Hidden Youth include, “Brand New” and “Champagne.” Additionally, “Golden Hour” starts off the album as it started off the duo’s trip to Joshua Tree. After hearing the sound of the fireplace at the house they were staying at, Conrad started playing guitar and Colin began to sing over the guitar and fireplace sound. The song was such a spontaneous creation that was rooted in the environment of the desert. As he reminisced on the song-writing process he told People Magazine, “It’s funny how much that song feels like that house in Joshua Tree.”

Finally, my favorite song (of the album and out of all my music right now), “Rooftops.” This song captures the essence of the album. It perfectly conveys the nostalgic youth that poured out of them while writing the album and is the definition of joy. For the longest time, I couldn’t quite figure out what the song was about until I realized that the message of the song is about setting yourself free and letting the inner kid burst through and enjoy the life you have. They’re rediscovering the youth that was hidden inside of them, hence, Hidden Youth.

I’m excited to see what Surfaces has in store for future projects and definitely recommend their music to anyone due to the fluidity they have within genres, providing a unique sound for listeners. As of now, Hidden Youth is the perfect album to listen to if you want to temporarily escape to Joshua Tree and the elements of the desert. Hopefully, your own nostalgic youth can pour out when listening to this album as it is the perfect joyride of an experience through and through.