Amongst punk purists, there seems to be the conception that, in order for their music to achieve legitimacy, a band must have slugged it out in working class neighborhoods and sing about the trials and tribulations of the “real” world. If this is the case, Scottsdale, Arizona’s The Summer Set are clearly one of the most illegitimate groups performing right now. The five-piece pop-rock outfit, who rose to prominence following the release of “Chelsea,” a track written for JONAS star (and lead singer Brian Dales’ ex-girlfriend) Chelsea Staub, haven’t suffered the horrors of poverty, and nor do they sing about the horrors of war. Instead, these children of suburbia sing about standard teen fare: meeting girls, loving girls, and losing girls. Yet, to judge the band based upon this fact is to judge a man based upon his economic background. While the band’s debut album, 2009’s Love Like This, was a textbook case of catchy pop-rock that echoed All Time Low at their most saccharine, the potential was always there, in both lead singer Brian Dales and the band’s instrumentalists, to create a truly memorable album. On their sophomore record, Everything’s Fine, the band has achieved just that. Laden with bittersweet lyrics, a soulful voice, catchy hooks, and a sense of maturity, The Summer Set have produced what can easily be called one of the summer’s finest albums.
Perhaps one of the most prominent themes in Everything’s Fine is that of love and loss. Of course, this isn’t anything new, for neither the band nor the genre. Yet, there is something surprisingly fresh about The Summer Set’s take on the subjects on this record. Perhaps it is the obvious progression the band has made in the transition from their debut record to their sophomore outing. Where Love Like This’s opening track “The Boys You Do (Get Back At You)” was a barn burning romp about “go[ing] to sleep with all” of an unnamed female’s friends, “About A Girl” is a soft, heartfelt ballad combining longing lyrics and top-notch, heart-wrenching instrumentation. The beautiful tale of Romeo and Juliet comes to mind as Dales softly wishes “to be a cigarette buried down deep in her pockets” much in the way Romeo desired to be a glove upon Juliet’s hands. Indeed, the softer, emotional side of love seems to be a recurring theme throughout the album, and it is a welcome change over both the bitter and sensual frat-boy tunes of the band’s previous record. Throughout the record, from the reminiscing “When We Were Young” and the anthemic “Back To The Start” to the soulful “Begin Again” and dynamic “Don’t Let Me Go,” the focus is less on the burning pyro of young love and more on the cool flame of maturity. Even at the record’s most bitter (which would be the heart-wrenching “Mannequin,” a track that promises to be the “Miserable At Best” of the scene’s new wave of bands), there is a complexity that runs deeper than the standard scene fare of “fuck you, you broke my heart” as Dales’ flexible (and, at this moment in time, mournful) voice laments how a relationship with a girl “fell apart like a rag doll at the seams” in one of the year’s most heartbreaking choruses
Yet, for all of Dales’ maturity and improved vocal abilities, it would be nothing without the support of the four instrumentalists that make up the remainder of the band. From the record’s opening lines, it is clear that this band has undergone tremendous growth. No longer reliant on power chords, the music is propped up by the twinkling of pianist/guitarist John Gomez on tracks such as “When We Were Young,” “Back To The Start,” and “Don’t Let Me Go.” Meanwhile, guitarist Josh Montgomery also shows tremendous acoustic writing ability in the soul- and jazz-like riffs found in such clearly Mraz-influenced tracks as “Someone Like You,” “Thick As Thieves,” and “Love To You.” Yet, while individual growth is important, the record truly shines when the band’s individual parts combine to create a completely cohesive whole. “Begin Again” is a high point for the band, as its jazzy riffs and soulful vocals (both of which channel The Rocket Summer’s Bryce Avary) are made truly memorable by the support drummer Jess Bowen and bassist Stephen Gomez.
Without a doubt, Everything’s Fine is a phenomenal record. It shows tremendous growth from all members of The Summer Set, and possesses a maturity that is both rare and endearing. A popular catchphrase nowadays is that the scene is dead. Yet, with albums as phenomenal as this one still coming out, I get the feeling that, as the album title suggests, everything’s fine, in both the scene and this band’s career.
Check out: "About A Girl," "Mannequin," "Begin Again"
2. When We Were Young
3. Someone Like You
4. Back To The Start
5. Must Be The Music
6. Thick As Thieves
8. Mona Lisa
9. Begin Again
10. Love To You
11. Don't Let Me Go
The Summer Set is a pop rock/powerpop band from Scottsdale, Arizona that formed in 2007. TSS is signed on the Militia Group and released their first EP on September 30th, 2008 titled “…In Color”.
In December of 2008 The Summer Set realeased their EP “Meet Me On The Left Coast” which inculded their Christmas single, “Love By Our Side”, a b-side titled “Can You Find Me” and an Usher cover, “Love In This Club” as a bonus track.... read more