Summer Camp’s sophomore album keeps dog days alivePosted on September 11, 2013 | by Hannah Treasure
It has been two years since Summer Camp’s debut album, “Welcome to Condale,” was released, which is enough time for the term “summer camp” to fade from our minds, now only a fleeting image of preteens screaming around lakes and living on s’mores. The band’s anticipated return has arrived to change our definitions once again, with their self-titled, sophomore effort.
In “Welcome to Condale,” Summer Camp incorporates many of their beloved ’80s pop influences. But this time around, the duo hones their synth energy into a French house, danceable feel. Nevertheless, it’s the band’s vocal clarity that’s most attention-grabbing, as Summer Camp trades in their beachy, distorted tone for a cleanliness to make the album more accessible. Long-time listeners may be disappointed with the lack of a lo-fi sound, but the band undoubtedly achieves their goal of producing a more inviting album.
Beginning with “The End,” Summer Camp initiates an ethereal aura that leads perfectly into their released single, “Fresh,” a bizarre juxtaposition of bright lucidity and dreamy unconsciousness. Fans of Daft Punk’s summer hit, “Get Lucky,” will enjoy “Fresh” for its groovy feel and mainstream draw — the song is definitely geared toward radio listeners. Through “Crazy” and “Keep Falling,” Summer Camp introduces full sounds without becoming too overpowering. The orchestral samples and complex rhythmic choices enhance these two tracks, despite the cheesiness of the overproduction in “Crazy.”
Lyrically, “Two Chords” stands out as a beautifully earnest and sincere song. Lines like “Let me be perfect/ It’s all I ever want” and “Waiting for the next thing/Will you wait with me” show an intimate side of Summer Camp, slipping you into a familiar curled-up-in-bed comfort. And to complement the lyrics are the expertly layered vocals of Elizabeth Sankey and Jeremy Warmsley — their harmonies are almost chill-inducing and pair perfectly with the lovely, calm piano instrumentation. The second half showcases their new clear, confident vocal strength, but then unfortunately starts to lose momentum and melt into commercial blandness. “I Got You,” “Everything Has Changed” and “Phone Call” do not take risks, connect to the listener or stand out. The section devolves into mostly filler material. However, “Phone Call” highlights the band’s intriguing attempt to dip into hip-hop sounds as lead singer Sankey spits out a vocal rhythm flow to the beat of 808 drum samples. “Night Drive” is also an attention-grabbing track, thanks to the duo’s effortless male and female vocal combination. Hopefully, we’ll hear more of their musical chemistry in future albums.
“Pink Summer,” the last track, ties together this fresh yet wistful album. It leaves you feeling as though you’ve just glanced through a photo collection of years past, with a new-found determination to make tomorrow better. There’s a sense of longing, but at the same time, energetic motivation. Aside from the lull in the second half of the record, Summer Camp’s self-titled album retains fluidity and cohesiveness throughout. Listen, dance, reminisce and hold onto their summertime feel all September long.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Sep. 11 print edition. Hannah Treasure is a contributing writer. Email her at email@example.com.