Don't expect the same kind of ink for the much larger than life acts that litter the Top 40 but if you are Bryce Avary aka The Rocket Summer, that is perfectly just fine. But that doesn't mean his new album Sweet Shivers
shouldn't be generating the same response for some big name who makes this well-crafted, even breaking new ground album because guess what? Sweet Shivers is well-crafted, well thought of and most of all creates a new ground in the alt-pop landscape. And we forgot to mention...well worth the two year wait between albums. Two years might be two hundred years in today's warp speed music industry but for The Rocket Summer, two years well spent writing, producing, recording and of course playing all the instruments for the album. So, consider that an impressive, herculean effort that produces what is probably one of the best albums of the year that people should be talking about.
The album begins with "Morning Light" where he blends his pop-punk beginnings with his ever so-present piano and synthesizer and simulates the cycle of a sunrise, from the soothing guitar picking at the start, then gets more intense to simulate the rising sun in the morning and then creates a harsher bass beat to showcase the sun is fully up and ready to take on the day. "Shatter Us," the first single off the album is a throwback to his previous sounds, the intricately layered and subtle sounds that have defined his career thus far. The vintage sound continues in "Blankets" but also introduces the element that has been always present in his music, strong songcraft and imagery. He uses the song title as a metaphor for life and as he says several times in the song "staying the course."
Songs like "Garden" combine the old-school piano craft from his original material and segues right into the new production tricks Avary has picked up in the previous two years. "5 4 3 2 1 Z" brings a new but old kind of energy that The Rocket Summer brings to his live performances. New because he presents the energy with a sort of melancholic but funky mood and old because the beats are presented in a manner that gets your foot tapping at worst and outright dancing on the street at best, a signature in his live performances. And all of that is wrapped up in a metaphor of escaping from the harsh realities of life and dance on "Saturday."
"Wannalife" showcases The Rocket Summer's still present ability to suddenly go stripped down and only armed with his voice and an acoustic guitar. Too bad, it is only clocked at 1 minute and 15 seconds. He'll leave you wanting another 1 minute and 15 seconds. But alas, after the equally funky and ironically titled "Slomo," which you'll need to listen to as to the irony, "Apartment 413" is the slow jam you'll be looking for. The piano-driven ballad is sung in a falsetto whisper with a jazz-like drum beat and delicate ivory tapping that lends a contemplative and restrained feel.
The next three tracks don't really inspire as "Keep Going," "Together in TX" and "World's Greatest" seemingly serve as slightly disappointing filler to lead into the final track "m & m," which restores and invokes the original sound of The Rocket Summer when he showed up at Warped Tour in 2007, that originally weird DIY sound combined with emo lyrics and emo singing...when his hair was a little bit more blonder, a bit shorter, no facial hair and for some reason caused crowds to form mosh pits and wild crowd surfing. An oldie but goodie way to finish off an otherwise strong effort.
has a little of bit new, a little bit of old, a little bit of classic, a lot of energy but also times to relax, chill and contemplate a little. In the now cluttered alt-pop landscape, The Rocket Summer once again shows everyone that he is the king of the hill and will be there as long as he's making music. And who knows what comes next for Bryce Avary on the eighth album, he always comes with a surprise or two while at the same time showing people why he is still the king of alt-pop.