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The Critics Corner: Albums
Of Men And Angels
The Rocket Summer- Of Men and Angels
Sophomore effort disappoints slightly with tweaked sound
Name: "Of Men And Angels"
Label: Island Records
Release Date: February 23, 2010
My rating: 3.5 out of 5

Review written by: Sam Kloeckener

The Rocket Summer is the solo-project of artist Bryce Avary, who not only sings, but also displays his immense talents by playing every instrument on the album and producing it. Avary is based in Dallas, Texas but his fan base is spread among the world.  He has toured worldwide, performing for many dedicated fans and is about to set foot on tour with the Goo Goo Dolls this summer. Of Men and Angels is The Rocket Summer’s sophomore album for Island Records, following 2007’s Do You Feel.

As the first song on the album, I think “Roses” is the closest to TRS from Do You Feel.  This song is strongly based on the notion of faith. “All I want is faith” is actually a direct lyric from the song, but this is what Avary is known for and his fans are looking for a song to pick them up when they stop believing. 

The next track “You Gotta Believe” is my favorite song on the album, and after reading other album reviews, it seems to be the number one song in most reviewers Itunes. This song and 3 others were released as an EP last year, but it’s definitely one of the strongest on Of Men and Angels.  It’s catchy, the guitar intro is intense and inviting, and the chorus makes me sing along. It’s definitely one of the, roll-your-windows-down-while-driving kind of song.

The lyrics are extremely catchy in the song “Hills and Valleys”, but repetitive.  The meaning is there, since TRS is classified as Christian pop-rock, but as far as musically inclining this song gets a flat rate from me. Nor good, bad or different.

I just want to mention that the transition between “Hills and Valleys” and the next song on the album, “I Want Something to Live For”, are flawless as they merely melt one into the other.  I’d vote this as one of the top songs on this album, just because the lyrics are relatable to almost everyone. Avary sings,“I want to make you proud” Well Mr. Avary, I am proud of this song.

“Walls” is a slow ballad, but Avary’s passion really shows through. This is definitely the breakthrough single that Avary needs to break out in the industry, and a must listen for any music fan.

The lyrics of “Pull Myself Together (Don’t Hate Me)” really hits home.  Combine that was with Avary’s voice, and you’ve got an amazing motivational song.  I can see this as the theme song for anyone who is struggling to move on from an event in their life or even a relationship “Pull Myself together, this is a brand new day, pull myself away from my mistakes.” This is also a great pickup after listening to the three previous songs, which tend to be on the slow side.

“Of Men and Angels” starts out extremely well with rough, deep piano, and a raw, new voice of Bryce Avary.  The passion in his voice in this song crazy, and makes it that much better. 

“I need a break, but I’d rather have a breakthrough” is probably something most of us think, or at least I do on a daily basis. I just wish Avary made a breakthrough with “I Need a Break.. But I’d Rather..”. I think this song gets lost in the sea of 15 songs on this album, as far as lyrically and composition.  I believe this is not a maturing TRS that we’d like to get to know, just for future reference.

“Nothing Matters” is TRS tribute to the man above, which is beautifully mastered by Avary.  The lyrics are so basic, but the meaning is outstanding and clear.  The lyrics “I know it’s not too sexy, but I’m singing about the blessings that we get when we give up something good” pretty much say it all.  The tone of this song is light and refreshing, as Avery mentions, “Nothing matters but love.” How could I not love this song?

I’m not going to lie, the first time I saw the title “Japanese Exchange Student” I thought to myself “what the heck is this going to be about?”  Well the lyrics “, I might as well be a Japanese exchange student Cause' people wouldn't know me, right when I show up. But then the thrill wears off, and then I'm alone” sum up the message.  The song mentions stars like Beyonce, and Paul McCartney, and how he thinks; “Until Paul McCartney rolls through town, and I think that I can get in on the guest list, When I Can’t” Could this be a metaphor for Avary wanting more fame?  Possibly, but I can’t help but have this song on repeat, not because it is innovative or catchy, but because the lyrics tell a story, and I’m all ears. I wouldn’t say this is a strong song at all, and it is also misplaced on the album.

“Tara, I’m Terrible” is an acoustic ballad that has Avary showing his weakness for a girl name Tara, whom he had been spreading around that she was “terrible”, (hence the title.) But I think that this song sticks out like a sore thumb as Avary’s weakness on the album.  It doesn’t add anything new or innovative to TRS sound, but it isn’t the traditional sound either, leaving my thoughts about this song up in the air as well.

“Hey!” Is one of my personal favorites on this album just because it is the Rocket Summer that I remember from Do You Feel.  The guitar riffs are intense and refreshing, and the lyrics are catchy on top of that, creating a fun and exciting 2:43 seconds.  Believe me, you’ll continue to hum the chorus after the song is done.

“Let You Go” –Number 13 on the album, reflects on a time most of us have to go through, which is breaking up with someone you have an amicable relationship with, but you don’t want to continue dating.  The song ends with the lyric “Just walk away, I know it hurts” which I think sums up the song to a tee, and makes the lyrics just that much more relatable.  Again, the presence of more alternative guitar riffs are evident and much more intense than a traditional Rocket Summer song may have had.

Track 14, “This is a Refuge”, showcases that Bryce Avary can be diverse as far as sound.  His voice sounds raw, but more mature in its tone.  The guitar riffs are smooth, and balance out the stress that is apparent in Avary’s tone during this song.

I think putting “Light” as the last song on the album was probably the best choice as far as placement that Avary made on the album.  Ending with the lyrics “But I will trust it's not the end, but a great beginning” could be foreshadowing (or a hope for Avary) for his future endeavors. 

I believe this album is definitely more mainstream and radio wave material, but I think the quality of the songs, lyrics and as far as composition, is not TRS quality that old fans have come to embrace and love. This album was highly anticipated, and I am personally disappointed with the outcome. We’ll see what’s up next for Rocket Summer in the upcoming months.

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