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Hello, Good Friend
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Hello, Good Friend.
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"Hello, Good Friend", from The Rocket Summer is an incredibly infectious album with wonderfully detailed songs. The brainchild of musical wunderkind Bryce Avary. The Rocket Summer blends everything from smart '70s piano pop, passionate punk and lo-fi indie rock into a cohesive modern rock gem. But instead of singing about despair and hopelessness like his comtemporaries, he sings about life, love and God, which is kind of refreshing. So go ahead and say "Hello, Good Friend" to The Rocket Summer.
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When I was younger, I loved this CD. The upbeat, catchy tunes, the whiney high-pitched voice, the guitar strums and the tap-your-toes drum beats. I was really into a lot of darker music, with a splash of pop (like All Time Low and Mayday Parade, but still Bright Eyes and Brand New). While I loved this CD then, I’m not sure if it’s translated well as my tastes have grown. The voice is a little too high pitched for my more refined ears (10 years of listening to music can change your tastes), the lyrics, a little immature.
Rather than the whole CD on rotation (and yes, there are a few bands I still listen to from 10 years ago), there are just a few tracks that I still love. Those being “Never Knew”, “Tell Me Something Good”, and “I Was So Alone”. That being said, as an album it’s a good one. And while I don’t still love and cherish every song, it got me through some angsty times in my life. It’s lyrical, his voice and range is great, and the entire album to full of catchy song, after catchy song. It seems like this sort of pop rock genre hit its full stride in the mid-to-late 2000s, but it could be poised for a re-emergence any time now. It still holds a nostalgic place in my heart, all things considered.
Vs Calendar Days: 91
The votes are in. The new CD is better than the first. Bryce very well could be on his way to becoming the next Billy Joel, assuming that his voice deepens within the next couple of years. But if you are like me, then you are looking over your shoulder to make sure no one sees you reading a review about the Rocket Summer. If you are like me, then you have been embarrassed to associate with this band since day one. And if you are like me, then you didn't look the clerk in the eye as you slid the album across the counter at the music store. You may have even tucked the case in your pocket as you walked out of the doors, making sure no one spots you with a copy of the most metro-sexual emo outfit on the market.
I over-exaggerate. But come on, not only does he sound fifteen years old, but his piano-driven dance rock ranks up there with something corporate and Mae for the competition to see who can write the cheesiest happy-go-lucky tight shirt wearing woo all of the ladies with coy lyrics and sweet, saccharine melody lines music. Yes, I said it: Coy. Basically the flaws in this album lie in the semi-predictable lyrics, although most are about his wife which I find to be a step above most emo today; and his voice is very likely to strike you the wrong way. But please don't categorize Bryce into categories like Good Charlotte or Simple Plan. He may not have much vibrato, but he sure can cover up the high notes well with those vocal stretches. I know that's just his way of making sure he can sing his notes live, but I like it and it works. Otherwise, this album is immaculately polished, the drum and guitar tracks are clear as a bell, and I was very pleased with the amount of creativity that went into these songs. I'll be more specific later, but I was shocked to read that some people out there think this album to be less creative than Calendar Days, and I am a terribly tough music critic. Simply not the case.
Some of my friends have more or less fallen off the bandwagon because they have graduated from cheerful fun music to depressing chilled out music. To you I say, I don't understand how you can drive to that stuff. If ever there was an album to serve as the driving soundtrack to your summer, this is it! Let your hands go wild all over your steering wheel, you'll be beating your air drums as hard as you can in no time, I promise. Plus Tracks 2 through 7 are a straight shot of uninterrupted addicting sing-a-long gems. Its rare to pull off a stretch where no song needs to be skipped for that long.
After meeting Bryce and seeing him shoot his confetti canon into the crowd at the high point of "skies so blue," I am pretty much sold. The kid can do no wrong. In person, Bryce is legit. He might seem a notch too happy on his albums, and he might sound a little too precious and cute when he talks, but this guy is smart. And personable. And a music prodigy. Recording every single track on every single instrument on an album with this much talent is a work to stand back and behold. The bottom line is if you aren't into dance rock or if you can't get past only superficially immature vocals, this album is not for you. So now without further a due, I present my opinions and the musical synopsis of each song.
Move: 2.5 Stars (out of 5)
It's alright. It's a predictable opener. Soft piano climbs down the chord progressions from I - vii- vi- V - IV, in a Vanessa Carlton sort of way. I was surprised by the guitars, my first impression was just the quick piano ballad that you don't exactly need to listen to. Does anyone hear him say "Dave Chapelle" somewhere in the middle section? I guess I could open the lyric book and check, but I don't want to ruin what I've got going.
I Was So Alone: 3.0 Stars
This would have been a better opener in my opinion. Here's what's creative about this song. The opening chords attempt the same I - bVI - bVII progression that turned out to be such a disaster for Mae's new album, but somehow it works here. Bryce loves the Mixolydian VII, and he uses it all over the place in this CD, but most noticeably in this song. Next, how cool is that break where he goes "hhha-a-hhha-a". Many bands forget about what they can accomplish when the cut the instruments out and rely simply on silence and your voice to produce cool effects. Nice touch. Plus if you ever need an energy pick up, say you're driving to the local rock show and you need a song to get you bouncing out of your seat, this is the one. The piano slide near the end also adds to the ingenuity here. Very nice ending.
Around the Clock: 4.0 Stars
At the beginning, I admit the vocals sort of hurt your ears. I think he just picked the wrong note to start on. But this song is a winner beyond that. First, how sweet is the drum beat. Triplets on the high-hat with a little syncopation in the bass drum. Very charming. And how about the break with the Major to Minor quarter note chords. An interesting effect, anyone with music experience can tell you. And if you haven't heard it yet, turn up your volume around 2:40 right after "I am not into that idea" to hear the barely audible "oh...". He left that little secret for his close listeners. This song is one of the best on the album, which he obviously wrote for his wife (who is a rather attractive young woman, I might add.)
I'm Doing Everything: 3.5 Stars
A very original opening guitar line. Let's see you come up with something like that, Mr. "I can't find anything creative about this album." It's hard for me to diagnose without playing, and I didn't bring my guitar with me, so you'll have to figure it out on your own. But he has plenty of flat VI's throughout, those small chromatic steps leading to the Minor center. Around 2:04 is another shining moment where he syncs up the guitar and his melody line with the "whoahs." Please don't say you wouldn't sing along here. The lyrics are way corny, unfortunately. Especially "I could go buy a ring right now, well actually I don't have any money, but that's okay because I can figure it out." Makes me cringe.
Tell Me Something Good: 4.5 Stars
I'm having a hard time deciding, but this could be my favorite song on the cd. It really impresses me, and inspires me to try to write a song as successful as this one. It's a mountain climb, really. The beat from the start is nice and smooth, with the finger snaps on two and four. He establishes his motive of "tell me something good" early, and it winds its way in and out of choruses on its way up to a climax. It's just a great melody. The guitar work around 2:00 is very Jimmy Eat World, but "easy" doesn't mean bad. The song drops and chills out at 2:30, letting you catch your breath before the quarter note crescendo climb back to the top. It delivers a ton of emotion. The ending fades down and returns to the quiet guitar strumming found at the beginning, wrapping it up nicely.
Never Knew: 4.0 Stars
I've read that this seems to be the most popular song. And its great, it is. I'm just not sure it's the best. It mainly relies on the piano, which is fine, but I give bigger points to songs orchestrated a little more interestingly. The chord progression follows a minor vi- I - ii - IV pattern, which on the fourth go around hits a major II right after the minor ii, giving you a leading tone (sharp five) back to the Minor vi. It's an interesting decision to go major, and its harder than you think to make those sorts of switches work. This song is also deceptively catchy, when you find the title of the album subtlety hidden in the chorus. Another great sing-along.
Brat Pack: 4.0 Stars
Clearly the single to be released if this ever hits radio. And it packs a punch. This is a party song, and given the right circumstances, I might try to pull it out at UVA next year. The baseline drops deep, and heavily clunks the song along for the first couple of measures. Bryce hangs on that dominant V for a good while, creating an underestimated amount of suspense. Then the "come on, oh oh, get on the floor, dance until you've got no more." It spreads like wildfire, and you know it. If you're someone who is displeased with this album, I double dog dare to you to put this song on in your room with the door closed, pump the volume, and stand motionless in the middle of your floor. It's impossible. Humans were created to dance to music like this. It's in our DNA. This is simply a case of a smart musician capitalizing on the human genome. Brilliant.
Treasure: 2.5 Stars
I don't want to spend time here. This song has its moments, but unfortunately, isn't needed very often. It's rainy day in doors sort of song. I skip it, but that's just because I'm impatient. I think it needs a maraca or a tambourine in the background or something. At least its got a solid message.
Story: 4.0 Stars
This song makes me laugh, but not AT the song. Its just funny. It doesn't seem like anything special is going on in the I-IV-V beginning. It really needed something to separate it apart from all of the other songs, so they don't start to blend together. Well, I believe it achieves that something in the chorus. Rhythms like these aren't exactly easy to come up with, and especially difficult to sing the way he does. It's a fast paced shotgun shell of lyrics that makes you want to take a deep breath before it starts, even if you are just listening. And the ending's gotta make you smile, the walkup from V- V - vi - VII - I. Cliché, but humorous.
Goodbye Waves and Driveways: 4.0 Stars
I know I keep giving songs 4's but that's because they are each deserving of high marks, but nothing masterful or transcendent. I couldn't give it a 3.5, its better than that. But not quite a 4.5. Bryce wrote a string section for this song, and didn't just synthesize the strings on his keyboard. I respect bands that hire string quartets. You can always tell when they're fake. The soft drum beat at 2:30 is smart, reminiscent of the Latin samba. The only problem with this song is the track timing. Maybe you haven't noticed, and I don't mean to rain on anyone's parade, but the timing between the guitar clicks and the drums is off. It bothers me, a lot. But the ending of the song makes up for the error. Once again, deep emotions, which don't seem predictable and cookie cutter to me. I find them genuine, but that's not everybody. Its up to you to decide, but this is clearly the most emotional song on the cd. One for the mixtapes, folks.
Show Me Everything You Got: 3.5 Stars
Better than I had originally chalked it up to be. In fact its, once again, downright captivating. This is a middle of the road rock song, and also showcases Bryce's talent at the drums, which oftentimes gets overlooked. This kid is a phenomenal drummer. He does these latin grooves throughout with the high-hat clicks on the off beats, complimented by some pretty tight chops on the snare drum. If you overlooked this song, go back and get into now.
Destiny: 2.5 Stars
This song is ok, but it could have been cut. It's what could have happened to track 9, if it didn't have anything to make it stand out from the crowd. The chorus is pretty good actually, its real simple and effective, but the song doesn't add much to the album as a whole. I hate to say it, but I'm going to. "Filler". The guitar solo thing at the end is kind of neat, and so are all of the random exclamations. "Whoah - no no no - yeah's - bring it - cmon's - go!" All that jazz. And the dissonant ending's pretty disturbing. I'm just trying to milk this thing for all its worth... you can skip it if you want.
Christmas Present: 3.5 Stars
Not exactly a Christmas song, plus it was released in may. But it's a decent quiet closer, plus a chance for Bryce to explore tonalities and textures instrumentally on the guitar, in more than just a 3:50 pop song format. He establishes a simple I-Vii-I hook in the melody that shows up all over the place later in the song. This song if for the high school couples. Such a date. I sort of wish Bryce could move past the highschool scene and write a little bit about the dynamics of marriage. I mean, I'd be interested to learn. But for a sophomore album, he's still allowed to sell to the kids. Maybe later in his career he will move on. Hopefully he won't pull an MXPX and talk about highschool until he's 30. Plus I don't know if the next song about homeless people is secret or not, because there's only a minute between the two. But it's alright too. Its very evangelical, and might turn off non-Christian listeners. I was really impressed with the guitar work throughout, if nothing else. He has a soft finger pluck style and interesting chords to show off. Its no Iron and Wine, but its good. A nice closer.
I don't know what to say. I can't convince people to like this album if they aren't into danceable rock music or if they can't get past Bryce's vocals. Everyone has their opinions, and thanks to our wonderful constitution we have the ability to freely communicate those. But if you are the average American consumer who hasn't decided what they think about Bryce Avery and his no-apologies-accepted style, I say "Give it a shot." In my book, the guy gets a gold star for effort.
1. Move to the Other Side of the Block (8/10) - A good opener. It starts out slow, but it picks up.
2. I Was So Alone (10/10) - Wow! What amazing energy! This is what TRS is all about, it just makes you want to get up and dance!
3. Around the Clock (10/10) - Another fast-paced energizer! A huge emphasis on the piano, just awesome.
4. I'm Doing Everything (For You) (7/10) - The chorus is way to catchy, as you can hear Bryce play with different vocal styles switching from his normal high-pitched voice to falsetto, to a powerful screaming voice.
5. Tell Me Something Good (8/10) - Slows it down a little with this one. Again a really catchy chorus.
6. Never Knew (9/10) - Begins with a lovely piano opening, then speeding up with energy. I can see Bryce's lyrical maturity in this one.
7. Brat Pack (8/10) - First single. A ton of energy, but some silly lyrics though. Again, I love the piano and rhythym.
8. Treasures (7/10) - A beautiful, short, piano-centered slow song. Nice ideas, but some silly delivery on the lyrics.
9. Story (6/10) - Mixed reactions about this one. A silly chorus and some pretty silly lyrics, but good energy.
10. Goodbye Waves and Drives Away (10/10) - Starts off as a beautiful acoustic song that turns into a passionate, emotion-filled masterpiece. Some good lyrics as well
11. Show Me Everything You've Got (8/10) - A fun, catchy song.
12. Destiny (8/10) - A fast, fun, energetic song to finish off the last bit of the CD.
13. Christmas Present (10/10) - Now here is some musical maturity from Bryce. This long instrumental never gets old and the small vocal parts are wonderful. A beautiful hidden song as well, what a great ending.
You will never appreciate the true energy of TRS until you experience them live. And try to get there so you can get in a word with Bryce, he's a really cool guy. Buy this CD and support TRS!
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You see, I ran in to the Rocket Summer while on Relient K's website.Read more