Band Line Up:
Bryce Avary – all vocals, every instrument, producer, mixer, masterer, writer
1. Morning Light
2. Shatter Us
5. Peace Signs
9. Apartment 413
10. Keep Going
11. Together in TX
12. World’s Greatest
13. M & M
Bryce Avery burst on the indie pop scene in 2000 as a teenager, releasing his first album in 2003, ‘Calendar Days’ released under his recording name of The Rocket Summer. His sound is not dis-similar to Savage Garden, remember ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’, songs that appeal on many levels, not superficial enough to be pure pop, but not heavy and imposing enough to be rock. Avery sits somewhere in the middle, creating meaningful songs that have imagination, freedom and energy.
The Rocket Summer is not a band, this is a one man solo effort, Avery writes, records, mixes, masters and plays every single note on the album, from drums to guitar, it’s all real, not computer samples. A prolific writer, he also branched out in 2012 to create his own label, Aviate Records, so he really has done this all by himself. He sifted through around 50 songs written for this recording, to choose 13 incredible tunes that will keep playing in your head, long after you switched the sound off.
For ‘Sweet Shivers’, Avery wanted to create an album from different locations, so he decamped from his city life in LA, to a cabin in rural Texas, Fort Worth is real Cowboy Country. It was a bee landing before him that made him reflect on how things can be viewed from different perspectives, that inspired the collection, hence the album cover. Following up from his debut, he released ‘Hello, Good Friend’ in 2005, ‘Do You Feel’ in 2007, ‘Of Men and Angels’ in 2010, moving to his own label in 2012 with ‘Life Will Write the Words’ and most recently in 2016 ‘Zoetic’.
Opening track, ‘Morning Light’ dawns upon you with a gentle soothing melody, the sweetness of the vocals in the chorus contrasting with the harder edgy verses, it showcases the creativity and inventiveness that oozes through the whole album. Intricate rhythms, up-tempo and full of vigour, ‘Shatter Us’ is emotional and empathetic, a song about mental health that is bound to hit a chord with many listeners. ‘Blankets’ is a song about emotional security, and about love, Avery demonstrates a great range in his vocals, his falsetto is delightful as a contrast to his deeper sounds.
Piano backing gives a somber start to ‘Gardens’, which then breaks out into almost a disco beat, layers of sounds that lift you, very original and innovative in style. A real stand out track comes next, ‘Peace Signs’, this will get stuck in your head for ages, clever use of percussion gives this a lot of complexity, his writing reminds me of the quality of Brian Wilson, especially with the melodies, there are so many sounds that you don’t spot on first listen, so you need to listen several times to really enjoy it fully. Harmonising with himself, ‘54321Z’ is a real mix of styles, a cocktail of genres inside the same song, it moves from emo to pop, a perfect summer hit song.
More reflective and pensive, ‘Wannalife’ is a very short interlude of introspection which rolls into ‘Slomo’, which is again very reminiscent of the uniqueness of The Beach Boys, with interesting use of instruments and rhythms. A slow and descriptive song, ‘Apartment 413’ paints a picture with words and sounds, full of pain, remorse, sadness and yet also hope, poignant and beautiful. Stuttering to a start, ‘Keep Going’ is like a conversation with your inner self, again mental health seems prominent in the theme, referencing a poem by Elizabeth Daryush, a writer who was concerned with nature, love and mortality. Avery’s lyrics are often quiet poetic, so this connection makes a lot of sense.
Much more provactive and full of feeling, ‘Together in TX’, is about how being together is more important than things or location, maybe referring to his change from LA to Texas, two totally different worlds, it seems he prefers the rural life of Fort Worth & its Stockyards to the perceived falseness of LA. Moving back to sweet & gentle tones, ‘World’s Greatest’ is smooth, relaxed and restful, but again the idea of insanity cuts through, maybe suggesting that many of the True Greats were often insane, having just been to see Van Gogh’s Museum in Amsterdam, he certainly has a point. Last track, a quick tempo, high impact, full throttle trip to the end, ‘M & M’ finishes the album with a lot of passion and power.
All in all this is a brilliant album, lively, energetic and yet soothing and beautiful, plenty of variety in mood and tempo, changes of styles in the vocals but all done exceptionally well. The creativeness is impressive and songs are catchy and memorable, songs you can sing along with, light and dark exist within them, they are songs in 3D not two-dimensional pop. This album should win over many, charismatic, yet not overly sappy, it has harder edges that keep it from being annoyingly sweet. The only thing I am struggling with is how this might work live, it has so many layers & intricacies, that one man alone could not possibly re-create it live for an audience, such is his talent in the studio, I hope I get a chance to find out.