Artist: Summer Camp
Album: Welcome to Condale
Record Label: Apricot Recording Company
Summer Camp has been called a lot of things, including “twee-synth,” a description that I guess isn’t actually supposed to be cruel, but has certainly caused me to click past the endless blog articles that have appeared on this duo in the past couple of years. Shame on “twee” and shame on me, because the pat classification of this excellent band means that whoever shoved them in that genre isn’t hearing what I’ve now finally come around to on Welcome to Condale, their first full-length.
Nostalgia and pop are the words that come to mind when Condale is playing, and it’s reassuring to see that the duo are as likely to mention the soundtracks to John Cusack teen movies as they are to talk about Active Child when asked to describe their music. The single from this album, “Better Off Without You,” has been bouncing around for a couple of weeks, and it would sound great over the closing credits of “Better off Dead” or “Say Anything.” Nostalgia doesn’t rely on straight repetition, though, and there are enough genre-crossing touches on this track and the rest of the album to make Welcome to Condale hard to pin down to a specific time—Summer Camp is good at the sort of “tasty theft” that Bowie talks about, and as in his case, they build these elements into their own sound.
And a word or two about that sound—you can actually hear it, thanks to Steve Mackey’s effective production. This is an album that begs for vinyl and a good set of speakers, to bring out those rich synth stabs at the beginning of “Nobody Knows You,” the bratty guitar strums in “Down,” and the rich vocal and percussion work that binds the songs together. A fondness for reverb, the recording studio’s automatic nostalgia, means that this effect overlays virtually all of the voices and instruments that you hear. It’s a good thing, though, a sort of aural fog drifting over the sharply written songs, a softness that allows the tunes to become part of your memory almost instantly.