The Rocket Summer

Of Men And Angels

Written by: TL on 20/04/2010 13:56:35

If you've been a part of the emo movement, or otherwise a follower of the American music scene for a handful of years, chances are you've heard of Stephen Bryce Avary, better known under the moniker The Rocket Summer, before today. If you haven't however, what you need to know about this young Texan, is that for four albums now, he has been the American dream manifested in pop-rock, learning all instruments he needed by himself, and writing, playing and producing everything he's ever put on record.

On the latest two records (I haven't heard the first one), Avary's efforts amounted to charming, bubbly pop-rock, of the sort that instantly gets your feet tapping and your mood raised, while also stirring up potential nauseau though, after prolonged exposure to its sugary content. Phrases like solid, enjoyable, cheesy and 'a few standout songs' have accurately been attached to both previous releases, and now Bryce is back, bringing the full weight of his experience to bear on the third LP "Of Men And Angels".

To start out with, nothing at all seems to have changed. TRS still sounds almost exactly like My Favorite Highway, or if you don't know them, like Jack's Mannequin but more up-beat, or like Matchbox 20 except more youthful. It's all about the piano/guitar interplay, charismatic vocal work and encouraging moods - "You Gotta Believe" is among the track titles - and.. you get the picture, it's the American way alright. It's the kind of music Disney would have wished they owned, but because they don't, you have a somewhat easier time listening to it without feeling bad about yourself.

And those exact words are actually what characterises "Of Men And Angels" in comparison to its predecessors. You see they wouldn't have come to me as easily back then, because of said risk of sugar-shock involved in listening. The new album has a more mature and classy edge to it, and this suits TRS well, because it means that as you sing along to a highlight track, such as "Walls", the image of yourself choking on candy-floss appears much less vividly in the back of your mind, even though both that and the rest of the tracks are as poppy (even corny?) as can be. The cool thing is that this tint of maturity doesn't come at the cost of TRS's trademark charm and youthful energy, as can be sampled in other favourite picks, like "I Need A Break, But I'd Rather Have A Breakthrough" and "Japanese Exchange Student".

Apart from the mentioned songs, which all stick to the mind with seamless ease, the remaining tracks also pack recognisable refrains by the bucketload, and after a even few listens, "Of Men And Angels" will feel not only enjoyable, but also very familiar. Of course, this is helped by a rather explicit lack of originality, but then artistic revolution never seemed as much the point here, as did traditional musicianship and positive messages. All in all, I think this is the TRS album I'm most likely to return to - save for the odd spin of "I Was So Alone" from "Hello Good Friend" - and if you find yourself in the mood for something uplifting and uncomplicated, this seems like a record that will give it to you, without demanding that you sell your soul to Disney or some other diabolic institution of pretence. (Actually, you do have to live with the odd biblical reference but that goes for so many good bands, right?).


Download: The Wall; I Need A Break, But I'd Rather Have A Breakthrough; Japanese Exchange Student
For The Fans Of: Matchbox 20, Jack's Mannequin, My Favorite Highway, Goo Goo Dolls

Release Date 23.02.2010
Island Def Jam

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