Valby Hallen, Copenhagen, DEN - 26/4
The Rocket Summer
Written by: TL on 27/02/2016 19:13:09
Last we heard of The Rocket Summer - aka. multi-instrumentalist, singer and producer Bryce Avary - the Texan showcased newfound maturity and leaps up in consistency on 2012's "Life Will Write The Words". Having traditionally been a purveyor of bright, All-American sounding pop-rock, however, there are probably few that would have predicted the approach Avary has taken on his new album "Zoetic", his sixth overall, on which things suddenly sound hyper-modern, almost futuristic, as if pioneers of r&b and glitch pop have been more prominent on the creator's playlists than anything else in recent years.
The thumping, angular rhythms of r&b thus suddenly found the base of the expression, while the clean piano sounds are replaced by electronic organ keys. One effect-laden guitar plays a funky Prince-esque riff panned hard in your right ear while another responds with a similarly tasty lick panned hard in your left. The beat evolves in lively fashion, quicker than you can notice in a storm of dubbed vocals and a flood of extra little production touches. To say "Zoetic" 's soundscape is busy is an understatement - in fact, ADHD probably sounds exactly like this - yet Avary's experience and freak-of-nature level of talent somehow balance it all and makes for extremely sexy and enthralling compositions more often than not.
Opener "Cold War" for instance, will make the eyes and ears (and mouth?) of any prior listener open up wide on first listen, yet as soon as the signature refrain comes around, you know you're still in safe hands. "Between my head and my heart there is a cold war. Go they got their guns, they got their guns..". The hook buoys you in the frantic soundscape and forms a home base for exploration, and such is the case for the most of the record. In some places, the movements of The Rocket Summer's new progressions lock together more devilishly than others though, like for instance track five, "Get Over It", where Avary opens with beatboxing, soon introducing layers of super funky guitar work, with a particularly prickly bit once more panned to the right while an overdubbed chorus to die for eventually goes to work on you.
"FL, CA" marks another main highlight of the record, coming in crashing with a very hard r&b beat somehow fused with both acoustic and slide guitar, while Avary throws his voice around like Michael Jackson in his heyday - In fact he does so all over the album, but the vocal acrobatics and how he's nailed them are particularly intense and impressive here, while the chorus, well, the chorus is of the infectious kind you better listen to while it's fresh, lest it grind on your nerves from chart positions for months to come. Elsewhere the mellower "You Are, You Are" spaces things out a bit more, giving more opportunity to pick on just how many layers and flourishes "Zoetic" generally has built into it. The single "UNI" has a prechorus Justin Timberlake would've probably happily included on a record of his, while "Help Me Out" thrives on an exhilarating increase in tempo midway through.
Overall, "Zoetic" would be a pretty mindblowing album as a combined work by an expert singer, an expert instrumentalist and an expert producer. That Avary has masterminded it alone speaks volumes of the creative level he's operating on via the combination of his many talents. There is some cause to remark critically on the decreased focus on his lyrical abilities in the busy, often broken-up-and-stitched-together feeling rush of this new album compared to "Life Will Write The Words" for instance, and there are tracks that live more by their best moments than by their whole cohesion, but that being said, there aren't many tracks here that aren't alive on at least one level. "Zoetic" then, comes within a hair's breadth of convincing us that pursuing this poppier, glitchier, super-produced direction exclusively in the future is the way to go for The Rocket Summer, and that being said, it makes for an impressive and exciting addition the project's toolbox. And it shows that there are few musicians you can follow these days who are as likely to push the envelope as Bryce Avary.
Download: Get Over It; FL, CA; You Are, You Are; Cold War
For The Fans Of: The 1975, Panic! At The Disco, Marianas Trench, Michael Jackson, Prince
Release date 26.02.2016